Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aubrey from El Cajon. Aubrey Wonders, “What is a biodome?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aubrey!

Imagine you’re standing in the center of a sea of trees. Everywhere you look, you see ivy, flowers, and other plants. You can hear frogs croaking and crickets chirping. Where are you? It may seem like a rainforest, but you’re actually inside a biodome!

A biodome is a self-contained, self-sustaining, human-made environment. One way to think of it is as an ecosystem built by people. Inside , you might find any number of life forms, including plants, animals, fungi, and more.

Does that sound interesting to you? If so, you’re in luck! There are several biodomes across the world that are open to visitors. One is in Montreal, Canada. There, you can visit five ecosystems—a tropical rainforest, a maple forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Labrador Coast, and the sub-Antarctic Islands.

Burgers’ Zoo in the Netherlands also hosts a biodome. It’s just over 32,000 square feet (3,000 square meters) in size and opened in 2017. Inside, you can explore a mangrove swamp and learn about the various forms of life that cohabitate there.

One of the largest biodomes in the world is in Cornwall, UK. Called the Eden Project, it’s made up of several domes that hold three different biomes. These include a humid tropics, warm temperate, and roofless biome. In total, the Eden Project covers over 30 acres. It houses plants and animals from many places around the world. This includes Australia, Chile, the Mediterranean, southern Africa, and the Himalayas.

Could humans live inside a biodome? Maybe! A structure called Biosphere 2 was built in Arizona during the last decades of the 20th century. Between 1991 and 1993, a team of scientists lived in Biosphere 2. 

While there, the team studied the habitats built inside the biodome. Another group of scientists entered the structure in 1994, but their project ended six months later due to conflict. Today, Biosphere 2 is owned by the University of Arizona.

In 2017, NASA and the University of Hawaii studied the effects of humans living inside a dome. This particular dome simulated a Martian environment. Six people spent eight months inside. They ate mostly freeze-dried food and had to wear space suits if they left the dome. They played board games, read, and knit while inside. While they missed loved ones, the participants seemed to live together in harmony.

Could similar domes one day enable people to live on other planets? Only time will tell. Some hope biodomes could be used to save at-risk plants and animals, as well. We hope you have the chance to visit one of these cool structures someday!

Standards: NGSS.LS4.C, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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