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Department of Energy Considers Biosphere 2 as Site for Climate Change Research

By Roy Burnett

Sixty-five scientists from leading universities and research institutions in Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, Israel, Australia and the United States and the U.S. Department of Energy Laboratories (DOE) met Dec. 14-18, 2001 at Columbia's Biosphere 2 center, located in Oracle, AZ, to discuss experimental climate change science and to explore the potential of the Biosphere 2 laboratory as an inclusive, multi-user facility. The conference was sponsored by the DOE and the Columbia Earth Institute, which manages the center.

In an interview with Associated Press, Barry Osmond, president and executive director of the Biosphere 2 center, explained that before the DOE allocates research funding, scientists would need to identify "compelling scientific questions that can't be addressed without a facility like Biosphere 2." Osmond added that DOE also wanted to see a clear demonstration that the scientific community would use the facility if the DOE supported it. "I think we got an abundant definition of those questions and indication that the community will participate," Osmond said.

According to Osmond, the participants enthusiastically embraced the concept of the Biosphere 2 laboratory as a facility suited for climate change research, and a report is due out in early February.

Columbia and the DOE first agreed to establish a framework for evaluating the laboratory as a potential multi-user facility for Earth system science, engineering and education in January 2001. The Biosphere 2 laboratory is the world's largest sealed and controlled facility for plant growth and integrated study of Earth systems science.

Biosphere 2 center is Columbia's 250-acre western campus devoted to deepening the understanding of Earth systems vital to the policies and decisions that will affect Earth's future. In addition to the Biosphere 2 laboratory, the center offers academic programs in Earth systems for high school, undergraduate and graduate students as well as educational programs for 180,000 annual visitors and local school children.

Since 1996, more than 1000 undergraduate students from some 32 partner institutions and elsewhere have graduated from the semester and summer programs in Earth science and astronomy at Biosphere 2. A 12-month graduate program leading to a Masters in Public Administration, Earth Systems Science, Policy and Management will begin in summer 2002. Click for additional information.

Published: Jan 21, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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