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posted 12/11/01

International Scientists and Experts Convene at Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center
Key Earth Systems Issues To Be Debated at Conference, Dec. 14 to 18 Will Evaluate the Biosphere 2 Laboratory as Potential Multi-User Facility

TUCSON, AZ. - Top scientists from universities, international research institutions and the U.S. Department of Energy Laboratories, will gather this week with leaders of national and international programs in integrative climate change science at Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center to debate key Earth systems issues and evaluate the Biosphere 2 Laboratory as an inclusive multi-user facility, it was announced today by Biosphere 2 Center President and Executive Director Dr. Barry Osmond.

The series of meetings and workshops is scheduled to take place on December 14 - 18, 2001 at the Biosphere 2 Center, located outside of Tucson, near Oracle, AZ. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the Columbia Earth Institute of Columbia University, which manages Biosphere 2 Center, are the event sponsors.

In January 2001, Columbia University and DOE agreed to establish a framework for evaluating the potential of the Biosphere 2 Laboratory as a multi-user facility for earth system science, engineering and education.

Conferees attending the B2C/DOE meeting will include Biosphere 2's owner Edward P. Bass, who will open the meeting, as well as prominent international scientists, leading thinkers in the areas of ecosystem ecology, earth system science, ecological and earth system modeling, physiological ecology and biogeochemistry. Attendees include: Michael Crow, Executive Vice Provost, Columbia Earth Institute, Columbia, N.Y.; Riccardo Valentini, Director, CarboEurope and Euroflux Networks, Italy; Joe Berry, Carnegie Institution of Washington, Stanford, CA.; Klaus Lackner, Earth and Environmental Engineering, Columbia; Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Germany; Jerry Elwood and Jeffrey Amthor, program leaders, Department of Energy's Environmental Sciences Division; Seiichi Matsuo, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), Kyoto, Japan; Manvendra Dubey, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM.; Valery Kudeyarov, Director, Institute for Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow; Brent Clothier, The Horticulture and Food Research Institute of New Zealand; Uli Schurr, German Federal Research Institute; Ian Noble, Cooperative Research Center for Greenhouse Gas Accounting, Australia; Akiho Yokota, Nara Institute for Science and Technology, Japan; and Dan Yakir, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.

Following the conference, a report will be submitted to the Department of Energy regarding the suitability of the Biosphere 2 Laboratory as a facility for the study of earth system science. In addition, the conference will generate several scientific papers for future publication.

"We are gathering a very diverse group of experts from a very wide range of fields, each bringing a perspective, methodology, and epistemology to the table, and among whom we must establish a sufficient degree of mutual understanding if we are to succeed in accomplishing our objectives," Osmond said.

"Some of the questions we hope to raise and discuss will focus on the sweep of science needed to understand how the biosphere, Earth's living systems, will respond to climate change and how this change will affect key issues of concern to society," said Osmond. "Some of these questions may be relevant to future research in the Biosphere 2 Laboratory, and the discussion will help to evaluate the facility as an inclusive, multi-user scientific facility relevant to the mission of the Department of Energy," Osmond said.

The broad issues that will guide workshop discussions include: What ecological and earth science questions would underlie future DOE-supported research at Biosphere 2 Center? What limitations on research might be imposed by the Biosphere 2 Lab's physical infrastructure? How could the facility best be used to support research addressing the mission of the DOE?

Meeting organizers will guide the scientist-participants through extensive discussions of issues such as computer modeling and remote sensing. The participants will carefully and thoroughly examine the Biosphere 2 Laboratory. They will discuss and review current research initiatives and capabilities within each of the active research mini-ecosystems (biomes) of the laboratory.

The Biosphere 2 Laboratory is the world's largest sealed and controlled facility for plant growth and integrated study of earth system science. Three acres in size, this one of a kind facility allows scientists to test theoretical models of Earth climate change on a scale never before possible. Since Columbia began managing Biosphere 2 in 1996, the facility has been refitted for tight atmospheric control and monitoring of ecosystem processes. Research programs to study the effects of varying temperature, moisture and carbon dioxide levels are underway in three of the Biosphere 2 ecosystems: the rainforest, ocean and intensive forestry section.

Biosphere 2 Center is Columbia University's 250-acre western campus devoted to deepening the understanding of earth systems vital to the policies and decisions that will affect Earth's future. In addition to the B2 Laboratory, the Center offers academic programs in earth systems for high school, undergraduate and graduate students as well as educational programs for 180,000 annual visitors and local school children. Since 1996, more than 1000 undergraduate students from some 32 partner institutions and elsewhere have graduated from the semester and summer programs in earth science and astronomy at the Biosphere 2 Center campus. A 12-month graduate program leading to a Masters in Public Administration (environmental affairs) will begin in summer 2002.

Roy Brunett, Director of Communications
Pager: 520-489-9660


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