Thursday, April 6, 2017

Catalina State Park & Biosphere 2

We are nestled in one of our favorite hangouts...
Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, Az
about 10 miles north of Tucson.

We like it here for several reasons:
Tucson is a great town with tons of things to do.
The park is beautiful with lots of great hiking.
Outside the park is every imaginable type of shopping one could need.
It's a very convenient location yet feels a world away from the outside.

Over all it's a great place to spend some extended time.... I have good internet
here so with a fast connection so I can get more work done in less time.

Our site for two weeks.

Site B7 Catalina State Park
 Ron & Maxine plus Jim & Kristi are here.
Looking down the loop - back ins (we prefer) are on the left, and pull-thrus on the right.

About the only ding I can give the park is that we have 50amp and water, but
no sewer.   There are several dumps in the park so you either can practice some conservation
to extend your holding tanks (like we do) or you can dump during your stay.

One of the fun things to do while here is to travel about 30 min north on Oracle Rd
is a visit and tour of  Biosphere 2  (click on link for detailed info)

Having been here a few years ago, it was fun to come again to see the changes.

Built between 1987-1991 and privately financed, it's original mission was to
function as a closed earth system to study the feasibility of long-term
space missions and space colonization.

It is now owned by the University of Arizona
and serves as a one of a kind earth sciences laboratory on an previously unheard of scale.

View of Biosphere 2
Inside the Biosphere are 5 different Biomes:
Ocean with coral reef
Mangrove wetlands
Tropical rainforest
Savanna grassland
Fog desert

Inside the Rain Forest
 The Biosphere operates as a closed (now semi closed)
environment where scientist can conduct earth sciences and climate change
experiments on a scale that would be unheard of without this tremendous resource.

The Sea with Coral Reef

The Fog Desert
In order to maintain the various climatic conditions needed for the 5 different Biomes with
over 7 million cubic feet of environment under glass - it takes a major league infrastructure
to heat, cool, humidify, dehumidify, create ocean waves and currents etc. 
The basement climate control system - called the Technosphere - covers over
3 acres of space.

Built as a closed environmental system, there needed to be a way to control the rise and fall
 of the inside air pressure as day time heating expanded the atmosphere and night time cooling
reduced the volume.

Additionally - the changing air pressures outside needed to be dealt with otherwise the pressure
differentials would have destroyed the air tight barriers.

To handle this challenge they designed two giant "lungs"
These giant steel discs suspended on a rubber diaphragm, will rise or fall with the change of
inside/outside air pressure differential.

It allows for the changing pressures without any transfer of air between the inside
and outside of the Biosphere.

The south lung at Biosphere 2
 Our tour concluded after we exited the lung to the outside.
We then walked back to our starting point on the outside
to begin a self guided tour of the crew quarters.

Inside the kitchen where the 8 inhabitants prepared their meals for 2 years.
All the food was grown or raised in the Biosphere.

One of the crew living quarters.

One of the more recent and large scale projects undertaken by U of A is
The Landscape Evolution Observatory or LEO.

It was built in the part of the Biosphere that originally functioned as the
inhabitants farming area where they grew their food.

The largest project of its kind - it will study the evolution of a pure rock surface into
soil and eventually plant life.   It has over 1800 sensors monitoring all facets above
and below the surface.

Another very interesting facet of the LEO is the study of the Earth Water Cycle.

We know that rain falls on land.  Some will evaporate, some will soak into the water
table, some will run off into streams and oceans and eventually form clouds that will
fall as rain again....   But we do not precisely understand  the how, why, and how much.

All facets of this cycle are being precisely measured.

One of the three LEO study beds.
It's hard to imagine just how much is being learned here.
A unique Earth Science Laboratory on a grand scale, the Biosphere 2 has
morphed from its original space oriented mission into one that is
providing science with a better understanding of the fragile planet which we all share.

If you are ever in the Tucson area...  this place is a must!


  1. Sounds very interesting...I can tell you I would not have wanted to be one of those shut in for long a time.

  2. Hi Greg and Kate,
    Always enjoy following your adventures! We are cruising on the Reel Jewel and Zeta has been keeping track of her adventures with her Humans. I thought you might enjoying following along. She sends hello to the Doodles :)

    Zeta's blog



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