Biosphere 2

Friday, Oct. 10, and Saturday, Oct. 11

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.

On Oct. 10 and 11, 2014, Carol Schwalbe’s Science Journalism class will make an overnight field trip to Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Arizona.

A grant from the University of Arizona’s Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management helped make this field trip possible. It was also supported in part by the B2 Institute, a scientific think tank and research incubator that addresses scientific grand challenges that require solutions combining expertise from a broad range of scientific fields. Other funding was provided by Dr. Jeannine Relly, Dr. Cecil Schwalbe and Professor Carol Schwalbe. We would like to extend special thanks to John de Dios for his time, expertise and generous support. Shipherd Reed, Ziniu Chen, John Davis, Erik Goodman, Noelle Haro-Gomez, Susan Swanberg and Julian Ybarra provided photographic and video mentoring,. Allyson McAdams paid our bills.

We are especially indebted to the Biosphere 2 staff and researchers. They helped plan our trip and made themselves available during the day and even into the night: Nate Abramson, Matt Adamson, Greg Barron-Gafford, Jordan Barrows, Katerina Dontsova, Ed Hunt, Kim Land, Luke Pangle, Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman, Nicole Ruiz, Joost van Haren and Dragos Zaharescu.

You may drive your own car to B2, which will be helpful if you want to stay longer on Saturday and interact with visitors. Most people visit between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Be sure to let Carol know if you’re driving your own car.


7:30 a.m. Come to the parking lot on the west side of Marshall so you don’t miss the van! It’s the parking lot between Marshall and the Marriott. Look for a white van with a UA insignia. If you have a problem, call Carol at (520) 300-0693, Cecil at (520) 907-8513 or John at (623) 308-5489.

7:45 a.m. Leave the Marshall parking lot. Be on time! It’s a long walk to B2!

8:45 a.m. Pick up key cards for the casitas at the visitor center. Drop off your overnight stuff.

9:15 a.m. Welcome and B2 history with Associate Director Matt Adamson in the Mojave Room. Write down questions to ask during the Q&A or later in the day. Matt is very knowledgeable about B2, so he can be another source for your story.

9:45 a.m. Cecil Schwalbe moderates a panel in the Mojave Room with Dr. Luke Pangle (LEO), Dr. Joost van Haren (tropical rain forest), Dr. Katerina Dontsova (soil biogeochemistry) and Dr. Dragos Zaharescu (plant-rock interactions).

10:30 a.m. A group tour of B2 led by Matt Adamson. We’ll stop to hear from the following folks:

  1. Dr. Luke Pangle (LEO) [Mark, Crystal, Ann and Alan stay with Luke. Chen and Julian are mentors.]
  2. Nicole Ruiz (Ocean)
  3. Dr. Joost van Haren (Tropical Rain Forest)
  4. Dr. Katerina Dontsova and Dr. Dragos Zaharescu (Desert)
  5. Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman (Model City)

12:30 p.m. Lunch with B2 faculty and staff on the patio outside the Mojave Room. This is a great opportunity to mingle informally! Catering by Nonna Maria’s: 520-896-3522. Artisan sandwiches (turkey club, Sicilian, veggie), pasta salad, chips, condiments, soda and fresh-baked white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

These researchers, techs and staff will join us for lunch:


  • Dr. Katerina Dontsova — soil biogeochemistry
  • Dr. Dragos Zaharescu — plant-rock interactions
  • Ed Hunt (lead technician) — analytical chemistry for Donstova lab
  • Nate Abramson (research technician) — LEO and CZO
  • Dr. Luke Pangle — geomorphology and LEO

Urban ecosystems—Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman—ecosystem ecologist

Ecology: Plant physiology

  • Dr. Greg Barron-Gafford — ecology/plant physiology
  • Dr. Barron-Gafford’s Honors student Jordan Barrows

Ecology: Tropical rain forest

  •  Dr. Joost van Haren — ecology — tropical rain forest drought experiment

Ocean—Nicole Ruiz

Alexey and a crew of filmmakers from Moscow working on a documentary about the legacy of Vladimir Vernadsky, considered one of the founders of geochemistry, biogeochemistry and biosphere

1-4 p.m. Report, interview B2 researchers and staff, shoot photos or video, and observe science in action.

  1. LEO with Dr. Luke Pangle (during morning tour)—Mark, Crystal (video), Ann and Alan (video) (mentors: Chen and Julian)
  2. LEO and CZO with Nate Abramson (afternoon)— Crystal and Ann (mentor: Chen) (Nate might not arrive until 1:30 p.m.)
  3. Model City with Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman — Josh and Valerie (mentor: Chen)
  4. Tropical Rain Forest with Dr. Joost Van Haren — James, Patrick and Mark (video) (mentor: Julian)
  5. Geobiology (how life changes rock) in Desert with Dr. Katerina Dontsova, Dr. Dragos Zaharescu and Ed Hunt — Alex and Dieux My (mentor: Susan Swanberg)
  6. Ocean with Nicole Ruiz — Jordan and Alegria (mentor: Noelle)
  7. Ecology/plant physiology with Dr. Greg Barron-Gafford and his honors student Jordan Barrows — Taylor and Jessica (mentor: Noelle)
  8. Historical B2 with Matt Adamson (talk with Matt after lunch and go on 4 p.m. historical tour) — Brandon (text and photos) and James (photos) (mentor: Susan)
  9. Alexey and Russian filmmakers—Justin and Alan (video) (mentor: Susan)
  10. B2 architecture (talk with Matt Adamson after lunch, then take photos)—Mikayla (phone call in morning) (mentor: Julian)

1-4 p.m.  Casita 1900 will be our headquarters. Come there for one-on-ones to go over your stories, photos and video. You can conduct interviews in the casitas as well as in B2.

1-4 p.m. If you have time, interview and photograph B2 visitors for the perspective of the “little guy.” Try to do this today. You might be able to catch a few visitors in the morning, but there won’t be as many people around then.

4 p.m. Everyone, meet at the Café Patio. Matt Adamson will lead a cool historical tour of the original Biosphere 2, including the countess’ house. Mentors will work with  students to shoot overviews and close-ups.

5 p.m. One-on-ones in Casita 1900 with John,  Shipherd, Susan and other mentors. Show us your best photos and/or video footage, and we’ll give you feedback on the holes you need to fill. We can also discuss how your text story is shaping up.

5 p.m. OPTIONAL: Journalism 101 in Casita 1900 with Carol

5:30 p.m. Nighttime photographers go with Erik to shoot video and stills of the lights coming on in B2. A good vantage point is the walkway that leads toward the B2 structure, but take the ramp instead of the stairs.

5:56 p.m. Sunset

6:30 p.m. Dinner buffet behind Casita 1700 (right beside Casita 1900). Dine on the Café patio. Fresh-baked garlic bread, chicken piccata, chicken parmesan, pasta primavera, lemonade, fresh-brewed iced tea and chocolate cake.

Dinner guests: John Davis (see below) and Russian filmmakers. Take advantage of this great opportunity to mingle with our visitors!

After dinner: John Davis, an optical engineer with the UA Mirror Lab, will be helping Erik Goodman with astrophotography. John  has been building telescope mounts since he was 14. He uses a home-made telescope and tripod that can peer into the universe. This is a great chance to do nighttime photography because we’re far from the city lights. When the B2 lights are on, the front lawn with the habitat in the foreground is a great vantage point.

After dinner: Stargazing with two astronomers from Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association.

After dinner: Cecil Schwalbe will look for nighttime residents with a black light.


6:25 a.m. Sunrise

8-9:15 a.m. Breakfast buffet behind Casita 1700 (right beside Casita 1900). Dine on the Café patio. Assorted cold cereals with milk, boiled eggs, bagels, butter and cream cheese, assorted yogurts, granola bars, fresh cut fruit, assorted juices and coffee at the picnic tables outside Casita 1900. Coffee makers, along with coffee, cream and sugar, are available in each casita. Hooray!

9 a.m. Recap on the Café patio

9:15-10:15 a.m. Take follow-up shots at B2. Interview and photograph B2 visitors for the perspective of the “little guy.”


9:15-10:15 a.m. One-on-ones in Casita 1900 with Carol, John, Julian and Noelle. We’ll be available to discuss your story and give you feedback on your photos and/or video.

10:30 a.m. Pick up your overnight bag. Leave the key card in your room. There’s no checkout.

10:45 a.m. Departure from the visitor parking lot.


Temperatures will be about 10 degrees cooler than in Tucson, dropping to mid-to low 60s at night.

  • Snacks to tide you over between meals
  • Water bottle
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Cool, casual, professional clothes (not too tight, low or high)
  • A sweater, sweatshirt or jacket for stargazing and other evening activities
  • PJs and other overnight gear (some bathrooms are shared)
  • A poncho and/or umbrella if rain is forecast
  • A hat if you plan to be outside a lot
  • Day pack/backpack
  • Sunglasses
  • Phone and phone charger
  • Toiletries (shampoo, soap and lotion are provided)
  • Reporter’s notebook
  • Pens and/or pencils
  • Tape recorder
  • Camera (and a tripod and cable release if you plan to do night photography)
  • CHARGE YOUR BATTERIES BEFORE YOU GO! If possible, have a back-up battery that’s also charged.
  • A way to download your photos
  • Optional: Laptop (WiFi is available but may be spotty)
  • Jump drive or other way to back up your work

Here’s detailed info about the accommodations:

The accommodations are beautiful but spare. The casita you will be staying in is a rustic, Santa Fe-style house. Each casita has from three to five bedrooms. The bedrooms share a central, shared kitchen and living room, but the bedrooms provide complete privacy. In some cases there are shared bathrooms. The rooms are oversized and feature high-speed, wireless Internet access (feel free to bring your laptop!) and central air-conditioning. Be sure to pack warm clothes during the winter months, when it can be chilly on the property. Please remember to bring toiletries and any appliances you need or use on a daily basis. Bedding, a set of towels, shampoo, soap and lotion are all provided. Additional blankets and an extra pillow are available in the closet, along with an iron and ironing board.  At night, the casita village is well lit, but the surrounding property can be quite dark. There is a flashlight in each bedroom. Come prepared for encounters with native wildlife common to the area. Enjoy your stay!

Wifi is available throughout the property. There is a printer and PC in the computer lab (downstairs in Planning Center) adjacent to the Sonoran Room.



Journalism 472/572

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