June 28, 2011

University Of Arizona To Take Control Of Biosphere 2

The Biosphere 2 facility in Oracle Arizona will become the official property of the University of Arizona on July 1.

CDO Ranching & Development donated 40 acres of real estate, including the scientific apparatus of Biosphere 2, a state-of-the-art conference center, a 3 megawatt power-generating plant and several other support and administrative buildings.

The Philecology Foundation will provide $20 million supporting the ongoing science and operations of the one-of-a-kind research facility.

The University said in a press release that ownership of the facility means it can be strategically focused to carry out long-term research.

"This ability to commit facilities to long-term research is unique and of significant value to tackling the big questions in Earth science, hydrology and ecology,"  UA President Robert N. Shelton said.

"Our goal is to build a national center that leads the nation in water research, Earth science and climate adaptation, and the Biosphere 2 enterprise represents an important step toward that goal."

Over 2.5 million individuals have visited Biosphere 2 since the facility was constructed, according to a UA press release.

"Over the past five years, the UA has demonstrated a passionate commitment to Biosphere 2 and its capacity to explore the urgent questions relating to the sustainability of our planet Earth," Ed Bass, co-founder of Biosphere 2 and president of the Philecology Foundation, said in a statement.

"I am thrilled this incredible apparatus has found a permanent home at such an extraordinary institution. Under the UA, one of the great Tier 1 research universities in America, and with the guidance of Joaquin Ruiz, a visionary leader and brilliant scientist, Biosphere 2 will without doubt be put to its highest and best use."

The structure was originally built by Space Biosphere Ventures to be an artificial ecological system.  It includes five areas based on natural biomes and an agricultural area and human living/working space to study the interactions between humans, farming and technology with the rest of nature.

"Biosphere 2 is a fantastic resource," Travis E. Huxman, director of Biosphere 2 and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said in a statement. "For example, we are very excited about our plans for the cross-disciplinary Landscape Evolution Observatory, a soon-to-be-constructed $6 million research project platform that will consist of three separate watersheds in which the fundamental question of how life affects the way the Earth works can be evaluated."

Biosphere 2 facility has been appraised for a value of about $100 million.  It was constructed for over $200 million and has an estimated replacement value of over $1 billion.

"Few countries, let alone universities, have the opportunity to exploit the incredible capabilities of an experimental apparatus the size and complexity of Biosphere 2," Shelton said in a statement. "The University of Arizona is grateful to the Philecology Foundation and CDO Ranching & Development for joining in our vision of thinking big to solve big problems."


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