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The Desert Sea at Biosphere 2

Video Tour: Help Build Biosphere 2’s Ocean

For the past several months, Rafe Sagarin, a 2002-03 Congressional Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, has been working at Biosphere 2. With a storied and stormy history, it is now owned by the University of Arizona and continues to spawn valuable research. Biosphere 2 is an Earth systems science research facility on a mission is “to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching and life-long learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe.”

“We have been working to find the right balance of scientific research, STEM education, and visitor outreach for this strange and rather amazing facility with a history to match,” says Sagarin.

He hopes they have hit upon a promising way to find that balance. He is in charge of Biosphere 2’s ocean where they are transforming the old, dead coral biome into a living model of the Gulf of California as “a more regionally-appropriate look at the connections between desert and sea,” he explains. In order to bring the transformation about, his team recently launched a crowd-funded campaign on RocketHub


The Desert Sea at Biosphere 2 from Rafe Sagarin on Vimeo.

As Sagarin develops research plans for the ocean biome, he is also seeking input from people on their views about conducting science in a facility like Biosphere 2.

“It’s certainly one of a kind, and it’s sits in an odd, but potentially valuable scale between the complexity of real field sites and the control of a laboratory. I’ve written about the renewed value of uncontrolled observational studies in the field for science (, and am wondering about bridging the gap between these and more traditional (at least in a 20th century way) controlled laboratory studies.”