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Arizona getting a ‘new’ ocean

PHOENIX — Arizona is getting a new ocean — or at least a model of one.

The “ocean” is coming to the 700,000-gallon aquarium at the Biosphere 2 project northeast of Tucson. Project Manager Rafe Sagarin said researchers will be attempting to recreate the ecosystem in the Sea of Cortez.

“[There are] thousands of species of fish and invertebrates, and we’ll take selections of those,” Sagarin said. “You’ll see very colorful fish. You’ll also see probably small sharks and stingrays (and) we may be able to bring in sea turtles.”

He said the original ocean in the Biosphere was modeled after the Caribbean and contained mostly coral, but there were issues from the start.

“The glass on Biosphere 2 is treated for UV radiation,” Sagarin said. “But corals actually need that part of the light spectrum — the UV — to thrive, so right away, they were at a disadvantage.”

After the coral died, Sagarin said they decided to shift gears and that’s why the new project will focus more on other life forms found in the Gulf of California.

Researchers have already released hermit crabs into the water and Sagarin said the project should be complete within the next few years.