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Southern Arizona’s Biosphere 2 reopens for walking tours

In this Friday, July 31, 2015, photo, tourists walk through the enclosed coastal fog desert ecosystem of the Biosphere 2 in Oracle, Ariz. Biosphere 2 lives on as a successful research site 25 years after eight people emerged from the New Age-style experiment in the Arizona desert. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX — Southern Arizona’s Biosphere 2 reopened to the public this week for in-person tours for the first time in eight months.

The University of Arizona-owned facility had previously allowed driving tours of the facility in August but has now reopened to the public for walking tours.

The newly-reopened facility features point-by-point tours that are guided by the Biosphere 2 Experience app, according to a press release.

“We have developed a new app that will allow visitors to explore the facility at their own pace while keeping socially distant from other visitors,” Biosphere 2 oceans systems and education initiatives manager, Katie Morgan said in the release.

“We are confident this new experience will provide visitors with a fun and safe way to interact with the facility.”

The facility’s new app allows visitors to get information at each of the 16 stops that are laid out along a one-way path from the visitor’s center.

Morgan said that the new app allows visitors to gain the same insights they would have with a guide, while reducing the risk of coronavirus spread by reducing the number of people in a given space.

“We made sure we put a lot of history into this app,” Morgan said. “There are Biosphere 2 archival photos and videos available on the app that can’t be found online, making this a totally different experience than before.”

The app also gives visitors information about research projects within the facility, such as their rainforest, ocean and model city projects.

“The nice thing is you can explore at your own pace,” Biosphere 2 Deputy Director John Adams said in the release. “This new experience allows you to tailor your visit.

“We’ve layered the information so visitors, if they so choose, can dive deeper into any subjects. Over time, we will continue to add and expand content as we roll out new research and experiences.”

More than half of the center’s 16 stops are outside of the facility itself.

“We’ve got scenic overlooks along the path that offer spectacular views of the property and surrounding landscape,” Adams said. “There is also a stop to view Biosphere 2’s lungs – large air chambers designed to ensure the facility would never become over- or under-pressurized.”

Biosphere 2 is located 30 miles northeast of Tucson near Oracle. It was founded in the 1980s to explore self-sustaining space colonization technology.

The University of Arizona bought the facility in 2011 in order to support those researching the effects of climate change and the earth’s behavior as a whole.

Visitors must purchase tickets online and select a time to visit, according to the release, with face masks being required for all visitors.

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