13. Results: Transition One

(Oracle, AZ) When the airlock of Biosphere 2 opens on September 26, 1993 to conclude its first mission, Transition One begins. It is to be a period, lasting approximately five months, of intensive data collection, new research projects and modifications which will continue until the next crew enters the sealed ecological research facility. Transition One will also be the time that the crew for Mission Two will complete their training.

To meet the key research objectives of the project, the atmosphere inside Biosphere 2 will remain closed and all operations will pass through the airlock.

“In order to maintain the integrity of the atmosphere, human access to Biosphere 2 will be limited to 192 person hours per day. This is equal to having eight people breathing inside during a twenty-four hour period – which is equivalent to the present crew’s effect on the atmosphere,”
William Dempster, Director of Systems Engineering explained.

Some 60 scientists will work on projects ranging from studies of marine microscopic life to mapping of the ocean and coral reef. They will be studying components of ecological systems on which they have consulted and which they have not been able to study first hand for the two years Biosphere 2 was sealed.

For instance, Dr. Scott Miller of the Bishop Museum in Hawaii will be coordinating a comprehensive survey of insect species present in the wilderness biomes; Dr. John Avise of the University of Georgia will carry out genetic studies to investigate the effects of competition and hybridization on two species of Gambusia fish found in Biosphere 2’s marsh and stream; Dr. Jim Litsinger will conduct research in the Intensive Agriculture Biome with the goal of determining what sorts of plant diseases and pests are present and evaluating the non-toxic Integrated Pest Management techniques currently in use. Integrated Pest Management, a system of pest and disease prevention that uses low or non-toxic pesticides along with beneficial insects and crop rotation, was endorsed last June by the federal government.

Possibly the most time consuming work will be the re-mapping of each individual plant. This extensive documentation will allow researchers to determine, among other things, the growth rates of all the plants and an assessment of which have survived or died, and which have appeared since closure.

Upgrades to several systems will be made in order to maintain state of the art technical capabilities. These upgrades include: improvements to the controls of the air ventilation system; video time-lapse photography will be installed in the wilderness biomes to give researchers unique views of plant behavior under differing seasonal light and rainfall conditions; extra water purifying devices will be added to continue the maintenance of a healthy ocean; the addition of lights in the Intensive Agriculture Biome to combat periods of overcast weather, and the installation of better food processing systems and equipment.

In addition to completing their training, the next crew will grow and stockpile crops from Biosphere 2’s agricultural area to replace the three-month buffer the first crew went in with. They will also help introduce new plant and animal species which will include fish, corals, urchins, and several varieties of shade-tolerant plants. Plans call for future missions to last for a period of one year.

 

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