Lamont, Biosphere Form Consortium for Planning and Research Institute

Photograph: Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Ariz.

Biosphere 2 and Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have formed the Biosphere 2 Research Group, a non-profit joint science venture to generate a long-term scientific plan and establish a full-scale Biosphere 2 Research Institute, a consortium of major universities, research institutes and national laboratories.

To determine the optimum science program over the next six months, the Research Group will:

Reflecting the expanded scientific focus of Biosphere 2, Bruno D.V. Marino, formerly of Harvard's department of earth and planetary sciences and its division of applied sciences, has been named Biosphere 2's new director of science and research. Also, the current mission of the seven resident crew members inside the apparatus will end by the middle of this month. Up until then certain White Paper authors and members of the new science team will visit the apparatus as short-term crew members, observing Biosphere 2 in full operation.

Following the current mission, a transition period of approximately seven months is planned to give access to scientists, engineers and researchers who are preparing the White Papers. The scientific direction and objectives of subsequent science missions, the next of which is tentatively scheduled to begin in late spring of 1995, will be driven by the long-term science program formulated from the White Papers.

"Our new focus at Biosphere 2 is to give complete access to the world's top scientists investigating the difficult issues in the management of Earth's resources and the planning for Earth's future," said Stephen K. Bannon, acting chief executive officer of SBV, the parent company of the Biosphere 2 project.

"This access is an essential first step in taking Biosphere 2 to its full scientific potential."

Columbia Initiative

The consortium with Biosphere 2 comes under Columbia's Global Systems initiative, a focal point for national and international efforts started by the University.

It includes the Ocean Systems Consortium with Scripps Institute, the Earth Policy Center, and the Center for Environmental Conservation and Research, a biodiversity center.

Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, headed by acting director John C. Mutter, is one of the world's leading institutions in the study and research of the Earth and its complex systems. Lamont's staff of 500 focuses on gaining a basic understanding of the Earth.

The Biosphere 2 research group will be overseen by an executive committee of four: Michael Crow, vice provost at Columbia; Wallace Broecker, Newberry Professor of Geology at Columbia; Marino, and Bannon.

The research group will also include a science committee of the authors of the White Papers. All are prominent scientists.

The committee will be chaired by Michael McElroy, chairman of Harvard's department of earth and planetary scientists and its committee on environment.

Broecker Sees Potential

"The intellectual life of this consortium is tremendous," said Broecker. "I see Biosphere 2 as a potential world-class centerpiece for a broad scientific program aimed at understanding mankind's impacts on the Earth's biosphere.

"Personally, I'm excited because we have to find out in advance how extra atmospheric CO®MDSD¯2 will alter plant growth and produce. Biosphere 2 is one of the few places on Earth where we can effectively study the problem."

White Papers that have already been commissioned include Plant Biology and Physiology, to be written by Graham D. Farquhar, Australian National University; Human Nutrition and Metabolism, to be written by Robert Russell, Tufts University School of Nutrition; Soil Physics and Biology, to be written by Eugene Kelly, Colorado State University;

Also, Isotope Biogeochemistry, to be written by Bruno D.V. Marino, Harvard and Biosphere 2; Elemental and Nutrient Models, to be written by Wallace Broecker, Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory; Environmental Science and Engineering, to be written by Jay C. Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Experimental Agronomy, to be written by Joe Tom Cothern, Texas A&M University, and Ecological Modelling of Complex Systems, to be written by John Corliss, Biosphere 2, and Christopher Langton, Santa Fe Institute.

Also, Walter Adey, director of the Marine Systems Laboratory of the Smithsonian Institution, will be the key consultant on the unique "mesocosm" ocean that is essential to fulfill the anticipated scientific goals and perspectives of Biosphere 2's long-term science plan.

White Papers

The White Papers, which are an outgrowth of company-wide net assessments commencing since the management reorganization in April of this year, will be delivered to the Biosphere 2 Research Group by the end of 1994, and will form the basis for Biosphere 2's long-term coordinated science program.

"I am thrilled to be part of this effort to bring together top-ranking scientists from leading universities, private institutions and national labs to study a spectrum of disciplines in the earth sciences, including biology, ecology and physical sciences, in this unique apparatus," said Marino.

"Clearly, we have an opportunity to explore subtle but important feedbacks between the key elements of Earth's biosphere, an important and emerging area of study. An understanding of feedbacks resulting from experiments in Biosphere 2 can inform our thinking about changes in climates of the past and future. Learning about the consequences of potential future climate change will also contribute to responsible environmental policy making."

"Dr. Bruno Marino is the leader we need at Biosphere 2 to focus and guide our new scientific effort," said Corliss.

"I will now be the manager of the Complex Systems Program, which is responsible for global modelling. This is the long-term focus of my scientific work, and what I originally came to Biosphere 2 to accomplish."

Funded by Bass

"I could not have been more delighted by the announcement of the beginning of the scientific consortium," said Edward P. Bass, chairman of Decisions Investments Corp. (DIC). "In addition to enhancing our study of environmental and ecological sciences, the consortium will also broaden Biosphere 2's educational value. It will contribute even more toward people's vision and understanding of our planet as a complete biospheric system, to which humankind is both a potential threat and a potential steward."

Biosphere 2 is a product of SBV, a division of DIC, a privately-held company controlled by Bass.


Columbia University Record -- September 9, 1994 -- Vol. 20, No. 1