Environmental Science Institute

The Biosphere 2 Environmental Science Institute (ESI) provides undergraduate students an opportunity to conduct guided research in environmental and earth systems science at a leading and unique research institution. Students are selected from around the world to participate in the program, conducting research inside Biosphere 2, in laboratories on the University of Arizona main Tucson campus, and potentially in the desert and mountain ecosystems of Southern Arizona.

The Environmental Science Institute (ESI) at Biosphere 2 is a companion program to the REU Program, but is not limited to citizens of the USA. The cost for the 10-week summer program is approximately $6,000. Please contact us about eligibility, application materials, and other requirements and pricing details. We are especially interested in utilizing this program to bring cohorts of international students to Biosphere 2 each year for mentored earth-science research experiences.

The ESI program allows students to gain firsthand research experience, as well as training and preparation for careers in science, while earning course credit at UA. Students conduct their own research under a faculty mentor, interact with other participants and scientists at Biosphere 2 and the University of Arizona, and present research findings in a formal symposium setting. A unique part of the Biosphere 2 ESI is the opportunity to interact with the 100,000 public visitors at Biosphere 2, as well as training opportunities for more effective outreach. Students will also participate in professional development workshops and field trips to regional attractions.

During the summer ESI, students will:

  • Conduct an independent research project in Earth system and environmental science under the guidance of experienced researchers in a unique research location
  • Receive 6 credits of upper-division directed research from the University of Arizona
  • Receive accommodation for the duration of the program in furnished housing on the Biosphere 2 campus (food not included)
  • Attend workshops on getting into graduate school, and communicating and translating research to the public
  • Attend field trips to local sites in Arizona
  • Present research results at University of Arizona’s Undergraduate Student Research Symposium
  • Have access to resources of the University of Arizona

Students are responsible for arranging and paying for their own transportation to/from Biosphere 2 at the beginning and end of the ESI program.

Research Setting

Research at Biosphere 2 aims to catalyze interdisciplinary thinking and understanding about the Earth, its living systems, and its future. Scientists conduct research in the Earth system and environmental sciences that examines soil-water-atmosphere-plant interactions. Improving understanding of these interactions is important in gaining insight into the impacts and causes of global environmental change and variation. Biosphere 2 is uniquely suited to explore complicated questions about climate change.

Research at Biosphere 2 capitalizes on the University of Arizona’s strengths in investigating the role of non-equilibrium processes in ecology, and the importance of environmental gradients. Biosphere 2 serves in this capacity as a facility that allows large-scale manipulation which combines theoretical, experimental, and modeling approaches. The facility is unique in the spatial and temporal scales at which it allows for controlled research in the environmental sciences. Biosphere 2 therefore provides a missing link, a critical scaling bridge, between the laboratory and the real world. The overarching theme of the research program at Biosphere 2 attempts to understand how physical and biological processes interact across spatial and temporal scales – providing the means to predict how the Earth system may respond to forcing factors such as climate change. Key to research at Biosphere 2 is the use of methods and techniques that allow linking across scales to understand how biological, ecological, and physical processes interact. 

How To Apply

Your ESI application package will consist of (1) an application form that includes contact information, educational background, and optional information on gender and ethnic background; (2) a two-page maximum narrative statement of educational and career goals, research experiences, and interests; and (3) two letters of recommendation from faculty at your home institution. Application materials, including letters of recommendation should be received by March 2022.

Am I Eligible to Apply?

Students majoring in, or in a curriculum leading to, one of the following fields in environmental or earth system science will be well suited to participate in the Biosphere 2 ESI: biology, ecology, plant sciences, hydrology, soil science, atmospheric science, geology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, sustainability science, or computer science. Students must have a minimum 3.0 G.P.A. to be eligible for the program. We encourage applications from students in groups underrepresented in science, and from international students.


Please contact the program coordinator, Dr. Kevin Bonine,  if you have questions about the ESI program.

Kevin Bonine