#NovemberToRemember: Biosphere 2

18 Nov

Anyone that knows me knows that I absolutely love science. Since coming to the U of A I have wanted to go to the Biosphere 2 because environmental research is so fascinating. My parents tell me that I went as a small child but I have absolutely no recollection of it. So I decided that this month I would finally take a trip and see what it is all about.

The day started out a little rough, my friend and I woke up a little later than we had meant to and we assumed it was about half an hour away. After going on Google maps and realizing it was a full 50-minute drive we decided to go ahead and get breakfast since we were already running late. Stomachs full, we were prepared for the drive, which surprisingly wasn’t boring at all! We had a lot of time to catch up on the important things going on in our lives.

Once we finally made it, we got to appreciate that the weather was finally starting to cool down (from hot to less hot). We bought our tickets and they put us on the next tour and then told us to hurry or we’d miss it. Five minutes later we weren’t sure what the rush was about because we made it with plenty of time. The tour started with a video about the history of the Biosphere project and I started getting REALLY excited to go inside. There was a really interesting mix of people in our group; one person was visiting all the way from Canada!

First, they showed us the different climates that they were able to simulate in the building. The rainforest was my favorite, even though my glasses fogged up as we entered the room. There was also an ocean, tropical grassland, desert, and mangrove marsh. The tour guide talked about the old, current, and upcoming research projects taking place in each of those areas.

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The Rainforest

Next, we went behind the scenes to understand how it was that all of this research could take place. We saw so much machinery: air conditioners, water pipes, other pipes with pressure gauges on them, lots of electrical boxes, water containment areas, and much more. It blew me away that the original scientists had to know how to fix it all by themselves for the integrity of the experiment. After that, we had to go through a very long tunnel to get to one of the “lungs”.

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Our tour guide demonstrating safety

Our tour guide said that the lung would be one of the most interesting parts, and to some degree he was right. At first, I thought that light was going to flash around the circle in the middle of the room or the rubber ceiling was going to come down. (Spoiler: Neither of those things happened.) Instead, we got to talk about how much of an engineering feat it was and I understood why it took 4 years and many millions of dollars to build.

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One of the Lungs that kept the building from exploding/collapsing in the original experiments

After the lung, we were free to go on a self-guided tour of the rest of the facilities. We decided to check out the ocean because from above it just looked like a big pool of water with a boat floating on top of it. Down below we could see that there were little fish and coral and how different the spread of the animal life was depending on the proximity to the current. There were some other exhibits in the outdoors that we wanted to see, but it was starting to get really warm and we were tired. So we stayed indoors and saw where the researchers had lived, a new soil project that was going on, and a climate change/ space exhibit where we saw a prototype for growing food in space.

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Mangroves- from the outside. I’d never seen one before.

All in all, this was definitely a memorable trip, from the funny tour guide to the utter fascination that made me feel like a kid again to the things I’d never thought of about the logistics of a building like this one, I am so glad that I went.

-Gabriela

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