A trip to the Biosphere II

Dear Students,

On the way home from Tucson, I took the long way and stopped by the Biosphere II in Oracle, Arizona. This is a photo heavy post today. I want to give you an idea of how much there was to see and do at the Biosphere.

The drive to Oracle from Tucson was very pretty. We loved the mountains, the cloudy summer sky. On Biosphere Road beyond the cattle guard were cattle grazing freely. Moooooo.

The Biosphere is a science campus nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains. The countryside is gorgeous.

I took this picture with my phone, so multiply this picture by 10000 and you have how pretty it was. This is a shot from the campus to the mountains.

Biosphere II is a science wonderland. It is a place for researchers to study the water cycle, biomes, climate change and imagine colonizing outer space. It is hard to explain which is why you should visit and tell me what you think the Biosphere is.

We visited at noon on a Saturday so our tour was crowded. Next time I will go during off peak times because part of the fun was running around outside.

You start at the visitor’s center, walk through a tiny neighborhood of colorfully painted houses with pretty landscaping.

I pointed out to Brady how concrete the language they used here was “our tour would be 1 hour and 15 minutes long, cover one mile and 200 steps”. We talked about how simple and beautiful the design was.

Everything has clean lines and simple shapes. The grounds are dotted with petrified wood and boulders striped with blue green ores.

This is not turquoise, but I did not write the name down. What kind of ore do you think this is? We saw at least 10 boulders like this on the way to the Biosphere entrance.

Our tour guide was Mr. Claudio. Our tour was crowded because we came at mid day on a Saturday.

The size of the tour and the uncertain acoustics in the different rooms meant we couldn’t understand the guided tour. Some of the ideas were a over the head of the boys. We got by just fine by looking around at the plants, the different rooms and talking about savannah, rain forests, deserts. So even without understanding anything he said, we still had fun.

What makes the biosphere fun is the scale and the materials they use to build. These look like toys we have, but look how they use them.

We liked the giant plants.

What kind of plant is this? It has beautiful glossy leaves.

We liked the sound of water and wind inside the great space.

Conducting experiments on breaking down waste.

This was a very sensory place. In a good way.

This passage way descended 200 feet and culminated in a half size triangle portal, no problem for the boys. Very fun.

The passage opened into the South Lung a giant echo chamber. Picture a giant white barrel. Giant. that is what we were inside. No way to convey the scale with my camera phone so I just captured moment of Mr. Claudio using a mike in an echo chamber. (he had it turned down)

Oh my I thought this was funny. He kept up his tour but within an echo chamber it was so echoey. Awesome!!

Last bit, the wind machines in the basement. They had another name but I have no idea what that was. They were fun! And windy!

There was a bank of giant wind machines which I would love to understand what that was all about. It was enough to be at the tail end of the tour and enjoy the great gusts of air. Awesome.

After the tour we had a lunch in the cafeteria and then home via the Pinal Pioneer Highway.

Draped over the hillside are solar panels. It is easy to talk about carbon footprint and using the Earth’s resources gently in a place like this. It makes sense.

Under a glass dome,
Mrs. Kenney

P.S. We used a groupon to buy a one year family membership to Biosphere. (It is no longer available but I link to it so you can see what the deal was). It was offered near the beginning of summer as a way to pump up attendance. I hope they offer it again next year. I follow groupons for Phoenix and Tucson and I notice that the deals repeat. Do you have a favorite way to save on family outings?