Friends . . . but not forever

The south side of Biosphere 2

Four men and four women from the counterculture ecovillage of Synergia Ranch, in New Mexico, entered  Biosphere 2 on September 26, 1991 as intimate friends with a shared interest in developing self sufficient space colonies.  However, the combined enthusiasm of Roy Walford, Jane Poynter, Taber MacCallum, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Abigail Alling, Mark Van Thillo and Linda Leigh, was not enough to sustain their friendships for the entire two-year experiment.

Half way through the experiment, crew members split into two opposing cliques, each highly despising the other.  By September 26, 1993, at the end of the two-year duration, some members of the crew were not even on speaking terms with each other.

Looking upwards on Biosphere 2

Since Biosphere 2 was not commissioned by either an educational institution or a government agency, scientists doubted the validity of this fantasy-like project from the get-go.  Crew members took on the responsibility of monitoring the air, water and nutrients of the enclosed biosphere, but no studies were ever conducted on Confined Environment Psychology, which would have, perhaps, been the success  of Biosphere 2.

About the only useful conclusion drawn from the Biosphere 2 Project was the cause for the major oxygen depletion.  A second 10 month mission in 1994 was aborted shortly after it commenced when Abigail Alling and Mark Van Thillo sabotaged the experiment by opening a door from the outside, contaminating the interior to the outside elements.  Regardless of the disputes that ensued, a stint with Columbia University and the threat of destruction from developers, Biosphere 2 owes it’s survival to the University of Arizona.

Tours are now given on a daily basis by well informed docents.

On June 27, 2011, UofA assumed full ownership and responsibility for Biosphere 2, and developed this former scientific folly into a viable research institution.  Current studies in climate change, landscape evolution observation (LEO), native versus exotic desert grass mortality, characterization of litter dynamics are just a few of the interesting and useful experiments now conducted by a highly respected staff of scientists.

The only way to truly appreciate the history and success of Biosphere 2 is to visit and see for yourself.

Coordinates: 32°34’43.60”N 110°51’02.14”W

Biosphere 2
PO Box 8746
The University of Arizona-Biosphere 2
Tucson, Arizona 85738
(520) 838-6200
(520) 838-6162 Fax
Physical address
University of Arizona-Biosphere 2
32540 S. Biosphere Road
Oracle Arizona 85623
Further Information:


TED presentation by Jane Poynter

Snow day at Biosphere 2


About © Rita Boehm

Copyright 2015 Rita Boehm. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Photographs, artwork, and/or related text are available for licensing. Contact writer for further information
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