Besides attracting tourists, Biosphere 2 near Tucson also attracts researchers

ORACLE, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- The Biosphere 2 in Oracle has been around since the early 90s, but what's new is the cutting edge research the facility is conducting when it comes to earth sciences.

"I don't know that there's a place like this in the world," said Deputy Director John Adams.

It's a juxtaposition of otherworldly looking glass buildings, tucked into the mountains outside the small town of Oracle.

"Biosphere 2 has been part of the Arizona landscape for 30 years now," said Adams.

The facility has been operated by the University of Arizona since 2011.

"Many of us learned about Biosphere 2 when eight people were sealed inside, and after those missions ended, it fell off of our radar screen, but it's still been active and a significant part of the research community," said Adams.

The allure of the Biosphere 2 brings in an average of 100,000 visitors a year, and it's not just a tourist attraction. It is also a fully operational research facility, with a number of experiments going on at any given time, all to help understand different factors on our environment.

"Here inside Biosphere, we're not your typical botanical garden, in the sense that the systems are allowed to evolve and change naturally," said Adams. "We do control the conditions, but then at certain times, if you're a researcher, you can come in and say I want to crank up the temperature, I want to cut off the rain, I want to add more CO2, and I want to look at how this system responds. We are perfectly situated to do those types of experiments at a scale that is unprecedented."

The research being done could have an impact on all our futures.

"A tool like this, hopefully, will allow us to refine our understanding, improve our understanding so we can be better predictors of what's coming our way, not what's coming our way this week or the week after, but what's coming our way 10, 50 or 100 years from now, so that if we need to make changes, we can go ahead and do those changes now rather than scrambling and trying to do them last minutes, which often times is not as successful," said Adams.

The Biosphere 2 is open every day of the year, except Thanksgiving and Christmas, for public tours.

Biosphere 2