After temporarily halting tours due to COVID-19, visitors will again have the opportunity to visit Biosphere 2, designated as one of “50 must see wonders of the world” by LIFE magazine.
Beginning Friday August 7, Biosphere 2 opened its gates to the public with a special treat: during a self-guided tour around the premises, visitors could explore Biosphere 2 from their personal vehicles, guided by a mobile app specifically made for this purpose.
“For the first time, and for a limited time, we will be offering an opportunity to experience Biosphere 2 like never before,” according to Biosphere 2 Deputy Director John Adams, “at nighttime and with spectacular illumination.”
Biosphere 2 is not yet open for guided tours inside the facility. Program managers, scientists, and outreach specialists have been busy coming up with ideas of how the public can safely visit Biosphere 2 while adhering to physical distancing and pandemic safety guidelines.
“With Biosphere 2 being a living laboratory in every respect, public visitation is a very central component to us, not only from an outreach standpoint, but also from a research point of view,” Adams said. “We love to have people out here, and we are very excited to be able to kick off our reopening process with this special tour, which was designed to maximize visitor and employee safety.”
Adams said the driving tour was developed as part of an ongoing plan that would allow the facility to resume its public opening in phases. This plan is being modified as the situation develops, informing what the next phases of reopening may look like.
“As part of our phased reopening process, we are continuing to look to new and innovative ways to allow the public to explore this remarkable facility,” Adams said. “During this driving tour, guests will learn some really interesting history of how Biosphere 2 came to be, but also how the University of Arizona is using it today, an angle we haven’t offered until now.”
Because visitors are required to remain in the confines of their vehicles during this tour, participating presents no risk of exposure to coronavirus. The tour will take between 20 and 25 minutes to complete, and the admission price of $20 is good for one vehicle with up to 6 occupants. For a limited time, using the discount code “LIGHTS” at check-out will knock $5 off the regular price.
Once they enter the Biosphere 2 grounds through the main gate, visitors will follow a well-marked course, guided by an app they download on their mobile device. Moving at a leisurely speed of about 10 mph, they work their way down to the core facilities of Biosphere 2. Along the way, the mobile “tour guide” will talk about current research happening at the Biosphere 2 rainforest, followed by the ocean and savannah habitats. Other stops include the desert biome and a close-up view of the “lung,” a fascinating, one-of-a-kind feature designed to equalize air exchange during the lock-down experimental phase that Biosphere 2 is famous for around the world.
Adams said the tour is currently planned to be offered during August and September.
“This is phase 1 of our reopening process,” he said. “We hope to be able to continue to host people on our property, but future opportunities for visitation may look very different.”
In preparation of reopening the inside of the facility to public visitation, additional airlocks are going to be installed to allow visitors to explore the facility in a directional path maintaining physical distancing.
“Being carefully optimistic, we hope to be able to open the inside by the beginning of next year,” Adams said. “We will update the Biosphere 2 app as these conditions become available.”
“No other university in the world has anything like Biosphere 2,” said Joaquin Ruiz, who oversees Biosphere 2 as University of Arizona’s Vice President of Global Environmental Futures. “It’s the only place where you can study the grand challenges facing our planet right here, in real-time and using cutting-edge science. At Biosphere 2, our scientists are literally learning right now what we have to do now to ensure our planet continues to have a sustainable future.”
Biosphere will be open for driving tours from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; days and hours may expand in the future. Tickets must be pre-purchased online at tickets.b2.arizona.edu. There will be a limited number of tickets sold per day. Once a limit is reached on a particular day, interested guests must select another day. Tickets can be used anytime beginning at 6 p.m., but the last vehicle must be in line at 9:30 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to download the Biosphere 2 app on the Apple Store or Google Play before embarking on their trip to Biosphere 2, as the signal on site can be spotty. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit biosphere2.org.