Bernd Zabel at SAM, Biosphere 2 Today we had the sincere pleasure of receiving Bernd Zabel, project manager for the Biopshere 2 construction and team member in the second (1994) sealed mission.

As with our time spent with Phil Hawes and Linda Leigh in 2021, it was a true honor to receive his passion, intellect, and stories for the challenges and rewards of the audacious Biosphere 2 project, reinforcing what can be done with vision and focus toward a single goal (and a sense of humor along the way).

“I was again a bit nervous receiving one of the Biospherians, thinking, What will he think of our modifications and additions to the Test Module? On our tour Bernd expressed his enthusiasm, saying more than once ‘This is beautiful!’ A few times he stopped with a puzzled look on his face, as he worked to recall how things were originally configured. ‘Our water storage tank was over there, and here was …”

When we came to the airlock I noted, “We pulled this from the basement of B2. Do you know its history?” to which Bernd responded with a grin, “Well, I should hope so. I built it!” and went on to share how it was quickly put together to isolate part of the Biosphere 2 during construction and early pressure tests. Thank you Bernd for your engaging support of our work at SAM, and surely we will host a SAM workshop at your resort in Costa Rica soon!” –kai

Born in Germany, Bernd was raised in Munich where he graduated with a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Technical University. Following extensive travel in Africa and Asia as a student, he made a trip across America to investigate alternative energy systems. He landed at the Synergy Ranch in New Mexico to conduct experiments in fully integrated production systems where the end products of one stage become the raw materials for the next. He designed and operated systems for water-conserving arid land agriculture, water harvesting, wind and solar energy, composting, and aquaculture.

In 1985 Bernd joined the Biosphere 2 project as General Manager of construction for the two-acre sealed experimental system. In 1994 he served as a member of the second team for a six months, and under Columbia University was Director of Engineering and Operations for the atmosphere, living conditions, and physical structure of Biosphere 2. Bernd worked in Tibet to bring running water to a monastery and consulted in Inner Mongolia at a demonstration project to stop desertification. From 2001-07 Bernd served as the systems engineer at the Garchen Buddhist Institute in Prescott Arizona. Thereafter he and his wife developed Biothermales, a resort in Costa Rica.

Presently Bernd is returning to his Biosphere roots and developing a material-sealed dome structure in which he will again experiment with total systems integration. Bernd is also an accomplished artist who had several exhibits of paintings.