Biosphere 2 Center


It wasn't many years ago that Biosphere 2, nestled in the foothills of Arizona's Santa Catalina Mountains about 30 miles north of Tucson, was the laughing stock of scientific research. Biosphere 2 Center has become a major tourist attraction in the Tucson area.

Built in the late 1980s with $150 million in funding from Texas oil magnate Edward Bass, Biosphere 2 was designed as an airtight replica of Earth's environment (Biosphere 1). This 7,200,000-cubic-foot sealed glass and space-frame structure contains 5 biomes, including a 900,000-gallon ocean, a rain forest, a desert, agricultural areas and a human habitat.

Some of the early designers and managers were interested in space travel and the possibility of colonizing the Moon or Mars. By building Biosphere 2 and sealing people inside, they hoped to learn what problems would arise from living in a closed system. So it was that in 1991, a colony of 8 people set about to live inside Biosphere 2 for two years.

The people who were selected to be Biospherians and live inside Biosphere 2 during the two closure periods with humans came from 7 different countries. All spent several years in training to become more proficient in their own fields as well as gaining expertise in the skills of the others.

The first crew of Biospherians (4 women and 4 men) entered Biosphere 2 on September 26, 1991. The crew members remained inside for two years despite various problems, including limited agricultural productivity, and emerged on September 26, 1993. After a 6-month transition period, a second crew of 7 biospherians (5 men and 2 women) entered Biosphere 2. Unfortunately, after a number of physical and social problems developed, the project soon suffered scientific disdain and public ridicule before these experiments were suspended in 1994. Since then, there have been no resident crews living inside Biosphere 2, and no future human habitation is planned.

The tour will include a visitor center, movie, gift shop and spectacular tour route. In addition, all visitors will now be allowed to enter the 3.15-acre technological wonder, as the tour will focus primarily on under-the-glass tours. The under-the-glass walking tour of Biosphere 2 consists of approximately 150 stairs (up and down) and the route is just under one mile to walk round-trip. The tour duration is 1 hour and 15 minutes with a considerable amount of standing (The tour has an additional 10 minutes of travel time to and from the Visitor Center).

The tour begins at the recently completed $10 million conference center. Parking for 500 cars, buses, and RV's will flow directly into the new visitor center, admissions, gift shop, and theater. From there it is a short but breath-taking walk to a point looking down onto the Bio 2 rain forest pyramid and then directly into the giant self-contained mini-world.

The under-the-glass tour will transition from the cliff above the one million gallon saltwater ocean through the upper and lower savannahs, thorn scrub, desert and technosphere finishing inside the amazing south lung complex. Visitors then continue to the underwater ocean viewing gallery exhibit before returning to the starting point on the hill overlooking Biosphere 2. The guided tour also provides some unique photo opportunities that were not available to the visitor on the previous route.


Biosphere 2 is located in Oracle, Arizona, , in the beautiful Catalina mountain foothills. The Biosphere 2 Center campus is a fascinating geological area sitting amidst 3 separate biomes, created by varying topography, temperatures and rainfall. It is an archaeologically-rich area with extensive Native American history.

Seasons & Hours

Open every day of the year, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Fees are subject to change, so check with Biosphere 2 for the most up-to-date information.

Additional Facilities

  • Desert Digs Gift Shop: Where you can purchase Biosphere 2 and Columbia University gear.
  • Rain forest Gift Shop: Where you can check out the educational material, apparel and souvenirs.
  • Coral Reef Gift Shop: Where you can purchase oceanic items and Aveda products.
  • The Cañada Del Oro Restaurant offers complete meals and beverage services and a spectacular view of the Catalina Mountains. Serving breakfast, lunch and a sunset dinner.
  • Biosphere 2 Hotel: Overnight accommodations at the Biosphere 2 on-site Hotel are also available. Call for rates, which include tour admission, continental breakfast, dinner and all taxes and gratuities.

Biosphere 2, is now owned and management by The University of Arizona, is one of the world's most unique facilities dedicated to the research and understanding of global scientific issues.

In addition to its popular daily tours of Biosphere 2, The University of Arizona has established two additional scientific entities, B2 Earthscience and B2 Institute, dedicated to achieving a range of research, education, and outreach goals.

Biosphere 2 Center
32540 S. Biosphere Road
Tucson, AZ USA 85623
Telephone: (520) 838-6200
Fax: (520) 896-6471


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Biosphere 2 became official property of the UA, thanks to two generous gifts.

CDO Ranching & Development will donate real estate and facilities, and the Philecology Foundation will provide $20 million to support ongoing science and operations.

Beginning July 1, 2011 the Biosphere 2 facility in Oracle, Ariz. become the official property of the University of Arizona. The acquisition of this one-of-a-kind research facility was made possible through two generous gifts.

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

The Philecology Foundation of Fort Worth, Texas, founded by Edward P. Bass, will provide $20 million supporting the ongoing science and operations.

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