A major innovation of the Biotron is the presence of 6 large, custom-designed, environmentally controlled Biomes exhibiting enhanced Level 2 containment. Unlike conventional greenhouses, Biomes are completely sealed units. The Biomes are constructed using glass walls allowing natural sunlight to pass through; shading systems can be activated to control levels of sunlight. In addition, the chambers are equipped with artificial lighting and an array of micro-sensors and computer systems to enable strict analysis and control over factors such as CO2, temperature, UV radiation, light intensity, wind, and precipitation. The Biomes are located on the roof of The Biotron Tower and are designed to allow multi-disciplinary teams to create and simulate integrated ecosystems including plants, insects, soil microbes, fungae, and algae.
The Biomes allow researchers working at the molecular level to scale up experiments to the mini-ecosystem level. Conversely, they allow ecologists to scale down experiments performed under variable field conditions to environmentally controlled conditions. Thus, the Biomes allow researchers to design and simulate pertinent environmental scenarios in order to assess the impact of an array of environmental factors on organisms, including accelerated climate change scenarios, plant-soil-insect-microbe interactions, and biorisk assessment of emerging technologies and pollutants.