We visited Biosphere 2 in early March. Biosphere 2 is a research facility, now owned by the University of Arizona. It was originally built between 1987 and 1991 as a closed ecological system meant to demonstrate the viability of such a system to maintain human life in outer space. From 1991 to 1993, four women and four men lived inside and sustained themselves with food that they harvested in the closed system.

Here’s a view of the facility from a knoll just above it.

Wendy-Biosphere

Nowadays, the facility has guided tours every half hour as well as several small-scale and large-scale research projects. The rainforest biome had recently been reopened after an experiment which they manipulated the water input to simulate a drought and measured the effects on the plant life. Our tour guide said it would take quite a while to deal with all the data that was generated.

Biosphere-Rainforest

Another day, we decided to do our own weed pull on our closest trail, the one up Panther Peak. The brittlebush was now flowering and made a nice contrast to the teddybear cholla.

Brittlebush-flowers

We came to pull up some buffelgrass that we had noticed on our previous trips. The trail goes right through this patch. Buffelgrass is an invasive grass and is especially bad because it can allow a fire to spread through the saguaros.

Buffelgrass

It took strength, but most plants came up with roots intact.

Doug-Buffelgrass

Here’s the view after our effort. We will need to go back another time to get the bit we missed.

Buffelgrass-after

We stuffed the grass into two garbage bags and then considered how we were getting them out. It was quite rocky and fairly steep where we did the work, so balancing the bag on our heads worked for awhile, but soon our shoulders were sore. We found holding the bag over our shoulder “Santa style” was the preferred method. We’ve since researched about what other people do and found that they leave the grass in the area, but weigh it down with rocks.

Wendy-sherpa-mode

We found a new area for hiking that has many short trails that can be combined into loops ranging from an hour to all day. It’s known as the Sweetwater Preserve and is about a twenty minute drive from our place, on the east side of the Tucson Mountains.

Doug-cactus

Can you spot the Curved-billed thrasher on top of the saguaro?

Wendy-Sweetwater-Preserve

We did a few days of birding, too. We visited the Canoa Ranch Conservation Area which is in Green Valley, just south of Tucson. There were quite a few other birders there looking especially for a Clay-colored sparrow that had recently been sighted and is rare for this area.

We didn’t see one, but Doug did get this photo of a Brewer’s sparrow with his long lens.

BRSP

And we visited the Sweetwater Wetlands again. This Greater roadrunner was preening himself in a tree. This photo was taken with an iPhone through the scope.

GRRO

Until next time…

One thought on “Tucson: Mar. 1 – 8: Biosphere 2, Buffelgrass & Birds

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