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A comparison of the similarities of biosphere i and biosphere ii

First, it was a sealed system in which researchers—originally called bionauts—and later biospherans—grew their own food, generated their own oxygen, and conducted experiments in a variety of biomes, all with an eye toward understanding Earth's biosystems and preparing for space missions, perhaps to Mars see box 1.

Then it became a remote classroom operated by Columbia University. After its earliest years, Biosphere II operated much of the time under threat of being closed and sold to developers, its 6.

They were supported on the outside by an array of scientific experts connected by telecommunications and on the inside by weed-loving goats, access to lots of computer technology, and a driving work ethic. The first mission was followed by an abbreviated one that ended because of inadequate oxygen levels and operator disputes.

New managers from Columbia University took over, but the financial problems continued. Alling, reached recently at her 111-year-old ketch anchored off Bali, where she works for the Biosphere Foundation no relation to Biosphere 2said that the new iteration of B2 is more like an open greenhouse with an experiment inside it than a self-contained system.

Much was lost, she thinks, when B2's present owners decided to open the doors. It could look at what was happening in the larger picture, such as how do ecosystems evolve, and [could] also look at how parts-per-billion molecules move through air and water. And that has been lost.

But on the other hand, at least it's being used for science. The enormous laboratory was reborn with a brand-new mission. UA, which moved to full ownership of Biosphere II in July 2011, designed a suite of projects that constitutes a mission more to Earth than to Mars. The big items in Biosphere II's portfolio now are the very real and present ones concerning climate change, water, soil, and energy.

There is a strong focus, too, on fostering public understanding of science through tourism, teacher education, and art.

An outfit named Space Biosphere Ventures took over and, in 1986, began construction on the roughly 200,000-cubic-meter glass-and-steel structure that still gleams today in the intense sunlight some 1200 meters above sea level.

Biosphere II became an enormous scientific laboratory. View large Download slide Biosphere 2, seen from the air. The two domes control air pressure inside the main structure, a collection of connected buildings that contains a large soil experiment, a rainforest, and a scale-model ocean. Very-large-scale science That B2 is unique is obvious from a glance at its futuristic design, but today's biospherans maintain that its uniqueness extends far beyond the architecture to the large and precise scale of the science that is conducted within it.

There are lots of incredibly well controlled, small-scale experiments throughout the nation, and there are many observatory systems of very large scale. But what there isn't is a bridge between these.

Each slope, called a watershed by researchers, holds nearly 1. Researchers can tend the slopes from movable gantries or cranes that glide above them. Some 3000 sensors and 2000 gas and water samplers embedded in the platforms will each calculate, on a near-continuous basis, the density, temperature, moisture, and carbon dioxide CO2 levels of the square-meter patch of soil in which it is set.

Other devices will constantly track what the soil weighs.

Life Under the Bubble

Those data will be fed to computers and on to researchers at B2 and back to the university in Tucson. After a period of basic observation, the slopes will receive plant life. One of the slopes is currently completed; LEO's designers hope to have all three running in November 2012.

Hariri said that the collection for a more typical process—one in which, say, the interactions of plant growth with the environment are studied—might take a year or more. With that integration, we could [better] understand… the right model and predict the behavior of the environment, and [we would] also be able to control the environment.

And they can play what-if with their inputs as needed. You could see if we are headed toward desertification of the land in the Southwest, or a drought; we'd be able to predict that. And, hopefully, we would be able to prevent that. Stephen DeLong, a geologist who is LEO's lead scientist, sees the project as complementary to the many smaller-scale research efforts, run by land-grant colleges and federal agencies, in which the effects of water and CO2 on soil are studied see box 2.

First, there will be a period of studying LEO's slopes in their relatively abiotic condition, DeLong said although he acknowledges that soil microorganisms will be there from day one. It'll be a very fundamental coevolution: How does life modify earth?

How do the physical system and the biological system coevolve? That's something that's very interesting in a big-picture way because the surface of the Earth is this mosaic of physical systems that coevolve with biological systems. But it's very hard to study that, because it's hard to understand the history. Thousands of sensors embedded in the three fabricated slopes will transmit data about soil and how it reacts as rain tumbles down an incline, but a resourceful soil scientist conducted a smaller-scale version of the research on a steep hillside in Honduras, using a handful of 20-penny nails, an empty soup can, and a ruler.

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Gaye Burpee, whose interest in agriculture might have been provoked by membership in the family that founded a mail-order seed company, was working several years ago for the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, seeking ways that poor Honduran farmers could best use their lands, which in Honduras are likely to be of marginal quality and steep.

Armed with the nails and soup can, she showed farmers how they could measure soil quality and erosion. Burpee sank the nails partway into the soil and measured the portion of nail remaining above land. After the next rain, the farmer could see just how much soil had washed away from his tomato and bean plants.

She plunged the soup can, opened at both ends, into the soil and poured a measured amount of water into it. Then she and the farmer counted the seconds until the water had disappeared into the soil.

The farmer could use the results of the experiments to decide whether to build terraces to slow down the erosion. In addition to tracking water as it moves atop and through the bare soil, LEO's sensors will also constantly assess soil temperature, pH, carbon dioxide levels, overall moisture, and a number of other data points—far more than could be measured with nails and soup cans.

In about a year, LEO's job will become even more complex; the Biosphere 2 scientists will add plants to the soil. Dark volcanic soil covers the tilted platform. Sensors, their locations marked here by yellow tennis balls, will send data to B2's computers, where researchers can control inputs rainwater, carbon dioxide, temperature and measure the results. Grand challenges One of B2's main contributions, its redesigners hope, will be its ability to bring together diverse scientific disciplines to try to solve big problems—what B2's promotional documents call grand challenges.

And what components does it need to have? The idea is that to deal with big problems—big challenges like global warming—you need to have everybody at the table. A comparison of the similarities of biosphere i and biosphere ii need to have the engineers, you need to have the physicists, you need to have the social scientists, the educators. We are really trying to build a community. And they don't know the language of physicists and may not know the language of the engineers who are involved in energy development.

So you need to bring these people together, and you need to get them to listen to each other, and you need for them to understand the point of view of the other folks.

If you want to get into renewable energy, you have to get into the other challenges. We are starting to think about B2 as a model city where we can do many interesting projects in renewable energy and smart monitoring.

  1. The concept of Biosphere 2.
  2. Their differences curtailed creativity and caused communication problems.
  3. Even the toilets had no toilet tissue; instead they had an inbuilt spray for...
  4. The fans' circulation and cooling of the air also serves to heat and cool the building. Human and social problems The biosphere inhabitants soon found that they could not generate enough food to sustain themselves.

The original Biosphere II housed several biomes: Beneath it all is a wealth of electrical and electronic cables, plumbing, and ventwork to support the activities above. Two huge domes, called lungs, moderated the fluctuating air pressure inside B2 when it was sealed shut. LEO is by far the top-ranked biome in the new B2, but the 850-square-meter ocean model and the 1900-square-meter rainforest remain important components. John Adams sees the rainforest as a prime example of one of B2's strengths: What are the dynamic changes?

Sullivan, of UA's ecology and evolutionary biology faculty, leads a laboratory devoted to studying the health of the fish in the ocean biome. Originally, the Biosphere II ocean was stocked with corals to emulate a Caribbean reef environment. Live corals perished, but the reef-dwelling fish species from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and from the Gulf of Mexico have survived because they feed on the ocean's algae, which grow on the surrounding rock installed during Biosphere II's construction.