Research Themes

Energy & Sustainability

In response to concerns over climate change, demand for new technologies and resource management strategies have greatly increased, in turn highlighting the need for scientific sites with sophisticated demonstration and validation capabilities.

The Biosphere 2 campus provides residential-, commercial-, and industrial-scale energy and water demand representative of typical municipalities. The campus can be treated as a model city, and its biomes considered as model ecosystems. The unique ability of Biosphere 2 to closely monitor and simulate a variety of grid scenarios without consequence to the public provides a new way to test management strategies and develop better practices for resource management in the face of climate change.

The original vision of Biosphere 2 was to create a model of earth’s natural systems: rainforest, ocean, savanna, wetlands, and desert. This unique ability to manipulate environments provides scientists’ greater understanding of global climate change effects and causes.

The University of Arizona Biosphere 2 is expanding its mission to find solutions to global climate change. One solution is smart-grid technology which may reduce emissions, lower costs, increase reliability, and provide greater security and flexibility to accommodate new technologies and integrate intermittent and distributed sources of energy and water.

As a laboratory city, Biosphere 2 can help verify the viability of smart-grid technologies, quantify smart-grid costs and benefits, and test new business models that can be readily adapted and replicated around the country.


2019 (Published)

Agrivoltaics provide mutual benefits across the food–energy–water nexus in drylands . Barron-Gafford, G. A., Pavao-Zuckerman, M. A., Minor, R. L., Sutter, L. F., Barnett-Moreno, I., Blackett, D. T., Thompson, M., Dimond, K., Gerlak, A. K., Nabhan, G. P., Macknick, J. E. (2019): Nature Sustainability 2: 848-855.

2016 (Published)

Surface-Parallel Sensor Orientation for Assessing Energy Balance Components on Mountain Slopes . Serrano-Ortiz, P., Sánchez-Cañete, E. P., Olmo, F. J., Metzger, S., Pérez-Priego, O., Carrara, A., Alados-Arboledas, L., Kowalski, A. S. (2016): Boundary-Layer Meteorology 158(3): 489-499.

2016 (Published)

Between control and complexity: opportunities and challenges for marine mesocosms . Sagarin, R.D., Adams, J., Blanchette, C.A., Brusca, R.C., Chorover, J., Cole, J.E., Micheli, F., Munguia-Vega, A., Rochman, C.M., Bonine, K., van Haren, J. and Troch, P.A. (2016): Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14(7): 389–396.

2016 (Published)

The Photovoltaic Heat Island Effect: Larger solar power plants increase local temperatures . Barron-Gafford, G. A., Minor, R. L., Allen, N. A., Cronin, A. D., Brooks, A. E., and Pavao-Zuckerman, M. A. (2016): Scientific Reports 6: 35070.

2015 (Published)

Does the Production of Isoprene Affect the Productivity of Poplars? . McFarland, E.J., Parra, E.A., Barron-Gafford, G., Minor, R.L., and Heard M. (2015): STAR (STEM Teacher and Researcher) Program Posters.

2012 (Published)

Green leaf volatiles and oxygenated metabolite emission bursts from mesquite branches following light–dark transitions . Jardine, K., Barron-Gafford, G. A., Norman, J. P., Abrell, L., Monson, R. K., Meyers, K. T., Pavao-Zuckerman, M., Dontsova, K., Kleist, E., Werner, C., Huxman, T. E. (2012): Photosynthesis Research 113(1): 321-333.

2010 (Published)

Gas Phase Measurements of Pyruvic Acid and Its Volatile Metabolites . Jardine, K.J., Sommer, E.D., Saleska, S.R., Huxman, T.E., Harley, P.C. and Abrell, L. (2010): Environmental Science & Technology 44 (7): 2454–2460.