The University of Arizona

Several Events to Mark UA Earth Day Celebration

By Daniel Stolte, April 18, 2012

The University will celebrate Earth Day with a festival at Main Gate Square on University Boulevard, a water symposium and other special events at Biosphere 2 and a documentary by Arizona Public Media.

This model, recently installed at Biosphere 2, offers a sneak preview of what the Omani Falaj Water Oasis will look like. The Omani Falaj Water Oasis is a full-scale reproduction of an Arabian desert oasis, which will be a permanent outdoor exhibit a Biosphere 2. (Credit: Biosphere 2),
This model, recently installed at Biosphere 2, offers a sneak preview of what the Omani Falaj Water Oasis will look like. The Omani Falaj Water Oasis is a full-scale reproduction of an Arabian desert oasis, which will be a permanent outdoor exhibit a Biosphere 2. (Credit: Biosphere 2),
This model, recently installed at Biosphere 2, offers a sneak preview of what the Omani Falaj Water Oasis will look like. The Omani Falaj Water Oasis is a full-scale reproduction of an Arabian desert oasis, which will be a permanent outdoor exhibit a Biosphere 2. (Credit: Biosphere 2),
This model, recently installed at Biosphere 2, offers a sneak preview of what the Omani Falaj Water Oasis will look like. The Omani Falaj Water Oasis is a full-scale reproduction of an Arabian desert oasis, which will be a permanent outdoor exhibit a Biosphere 2. (Credit: Biosphere 2),

The University of Arizona will celebrate Earth Day with a series of activities on campus and at the UA's Biosphere 2 facility in Oracle, Ariz. 

In addition, Arizona Public Media will premiere a documentary on an effort to purify water by using the sun. 

Earth Day Festival on Main Gate Square

Hosted by the UA's Students for Sustainability, the UA Office of Sustainability and Main Gate Square, the Earth Day celebration, taking place April 20 from 4-8 p.m., will feature live entertainment, activities for kids and interactive demonstrations. More than 50 University programs, along with local businesses and organizations will be present to inform and engage the Tucson community about their work to make the world more sustainable.

Events for kids include face painting, balloon animals, an inflatable obstacle course and a rock-climbing wall. Entertainment will be provided by the UA's a capella band CatCall and a DJ. Free valet parking for bicycles will be available.

"We are trying to get people to think about their everyday practices with respect to consumption and using resources," said Natalie Lucas, the executive director of UA Students for Sustainability, the group that has been organizing the UA's Earth Day festival for several years. "The idea is to encourage people to be more sustainable and more friendly to the Earth, but most importantly, we see Earth Day as an opportunity for students to connect with the greater Tucson community and provide a networking opportunity with organizations and small businesses."

UA Students for Sustainability brings together students who want to get involved in making the UA a greener and more sustainable campus. More than 20 students are involved in internship projects varying from water harvesting to sustainable food supplies to recycling initiatives.

"For Earth Day, we want people to have fun and enjoy themselves learning about sustainability and the environment," said Lucas, who is a junior with a double major in environmental science and philosophy, politics, economics and law. 

The UA's Green Fund Committee has funded more than 30 sustainability projects and is currently accepting applications from students. In addition, the fund solicits and reviews projects from faculty, students and employees aimed at making campus more sustainable.

"The Lessons of Omani Aflaj" Symposium

In partnership with the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, Biosphere 2 is hosting a special symposium on April 20 in connection with the latest addition to Biosphere 2's science outreach program: the Omani Aflaj Water Oasis, which will be unveiled on the Biosphere 2 grounds the following day.

The symposium, held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the UA's Kuiper Building on the main campus, is open to the public and will bring together Omani, European and local water scholars and experts to discuss what ancient methods of water management can teach people about addressing modern water challenges in an arid environment.

Earth Day at Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 has teamed up with the UA School of Music to celebrate the art and science of Earth Day through exhibits, hands-on interactive displays, guided tours and live music throughout the facility. The event will bring together visitors, artists, scientists and students. Admission is free for children 15 and younger.

One of the highlights will be the unveiling of the Omani Falaj Water Oasis, developed through an international partnership with the Sultanate of Oman. Her Excellency Hunaina Al-Mughairy, Omani Ambassador to the U.S., and a delegation of Omani dignitaries will participate in the festivities.

"The Falaj water symposium and exhibits highlight how an ancient technology – still in use today  can contribute to the global conversation on water usage and conservation," said Kathleen Ridolfo, executive director of the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center. "It is our hope that in showcasing this Omani feat in engineering, we can inspire others to rethink current water systems and policies. Sometimes the oldest ideas are the best ideas."
 
The Omani Falaj Water Oasis is the latest additon to Biosphere 2's outdoor exhibits, which will eventually feature a full-scale replica of a Middle Eastern desert oasis, complete with housing structures and a grove of date palm and pomegranate trees. A corresponding indoor exhibit showcases a 10-foot-long model of the oasis explaining the water-harvesting techniques used by the peoples in the region.

The Earth Day celebration is one of the many ways Biosphere 2 educates people on science topics and promoting scientific literacy. This year, special emphasis will be placed on sustainability and music. Rex Woods, director of the UA School of Music said, "Our students will perform a vast array of music from different cultures and styles. We are pleased to work alongside the College of Science in making Earth Day a wonderful experience for the entire family."

Travis Huxman, director of Biosphere 2 and a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, said, "This year's Earth Day will showcase many of the UA rising stars – young faculty members who will play a central role in solving some of the most daunting grand challenges facing our earth. We are also very excited about our partnership with the UA School of Music, which will solidify the connection between art and science."

Other activities at Biosphere 2 are planned, including:

  • New exhibits showcasing solar energy, green roofs and water harvesting.
  • Arizona-based company GoE3 unveiling the universal car-charging unit that will be installed at Biosphere 2.
  • The UA Astronomy Club will host activities on the solar system, planets orbiting other stars and ice in the universe.
  • Visitors get to experience Biosphere 2's newest high-tech, hands-on attraction – the OmniGlobe. The OmniGlobe is a digital globe that can project a virtually limitless array of content from data sets such as the solar system, oceanography, plate-tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, pollution and ecology.
  • Live music throughout the facility, organized by the UA School of Music.
  • Animal encounters presented by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
  • Thematic tours focusing on the role of each biome in supporting human life and sustainability.
  • Meteorite samples and a photographic exhibit of meteorites.

"Seeking Water from the Sun" Documentary

"Seeking Water from the Sun" is a 30-minute documentary produced by Arizona Public Media that explores a scientific effort to resolve a dilemma of basic human need – clean water. This special program will premiere on April 22 at 6 p.m. on PBS-HD 6. It features students from the UA's College of Engineering as well as Ardeth Barnhart, program director for renewable energy at the UA's Institute of the Environment, and Wendell Ela, a professor in the UA's department of chemical and environmental engineering.

UA engineers, scientists and the Bureau of Reclamation took on the project of designing and building a prototype solar solution to purify water "off the grid" by using the sun. The documentary follows their trials and tribulations as they design and build a solar-powered water distillation prototype, the first step of a plan to purify groundwater for easier access for the Navajo people and their livestock.