THE ECO DOME and Its Family of Products
Our Eco Dome kit has been designed by Australian biologist and experienced science educator Peter Smith to create and explore as many terrestrial climate and biological phenomena as possible. It does this using a simple panoramic terrarium that sits on a table at home (or school).
The ‘EARTH’ or Base can be described as looking like a snapshot taken from outer space to show a terrace farming system from an ancient civilization. Subtle theming adds to the effect.
“This is not merely a laboratory or greenhouse,” states Dr. Eugene Hull, president of Toyops.com, the U.S. distributor of the Eco Dome. “Our intention is to introduce children to the urgent discipline of planet management and the understanding of global warmings. The emotional impact of seeing one of these systems set up and ‘pumping’ is amazing.”
The bottom level of the dome represents the ocean. It is a reservoir that supplies water to the upper levels through evaporation, condensation and internal rainfall. Nutrients and salts naturally build up here as water trickles from the upland lakes down the mini-waterfalls, through soils and biological systems, and back to the sea.
The next level represents wet lowlands. Special soil ingredients and aquifer overflow design keep this level damp for “wet-footed” plants.
Next up are the mountain terraces. The drier soils up here have a lower water-holding capacity, so water runs into and out of this system quite quickly. Dry-soil-loving plants thrive here.
At the top is a narrow mountain lake fed entirely by condensation and internal rainfall. Pure water with no nutrients (unless introduced) quickly travels down the hillsides when water is actively condensing out of the atmosphere.
The ATMOSPHERE is a specially shaped and molded lid and the air it contains. The air can be manipulated by opening or closing small ports at the lower terrace level and the large port in the roof. The roof port features a special container that seals the port and during air cooling and heating experiments.
More information available at toyops.com
THERMALS AND DOWNDRAFTS
With all ports open and the introduction of sunlight or lamplight, air will enter the system at the lower level and soon drive up through the upper port as a thermal. A special turbine in the lid shows the updraft speed and direction. Close any ports and the airflow changes or stops. Speed of airflow depends on heat build-up in the dome, which depends on the color of the plants, the color of the soil and other factors. Cold water in the sea may even reverse airflow and cause strong downdrafts. Close all ports, the wind stops, air saturates and condensation starts on the sloping roof, dripping into the upland lake.
When the air is warm, put ice into the roof container and rapid turbulence ensues with strong updrafts and even more powerful downdrafts with heavy rain. Catch the rain in special measuring containers to monitor rate of water transfer from the sea to the atmosphere and back.
All materials and water can be measured or weighed at the start for long-term biological experiments. The system is sealed – like a biosphere. Only light and heat are added from outside. Changes in free-water levels means water has moved into the biological or geological systems. Death and decay releases water back again. Water movement is slow without plants. Rain is hard to make! But it accelerates as plants grow and transpire.
SCIENCE IN ACTION:
The walls of each layer feature embossed rulers to monitor seedling growth, water levels, proportions of soil ingredients when installing, and so forth. There are two strip thermometers to monitor temperatures at different altitudes (yes, even in such a small world, altitude matters). Special indicator tapes are supplied so kids can monitor changes in water and soil quality. We also supply lists of recommended plant types or seeds to use, depending on the type of biome you wish to create. Rainforest, desert, intensive farming, and even fungus worlds are possible. Kids can grow food for their sandwiches, or they can grow bug-eating monsters!
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
The Planet Managers Handbook and Diary gives starter ideas for dozens of mind- and eye-boggling experiments. There are plenty of hints and techniques, and even more unanswered questions for the young enviro-scientist to tackle. We don’t know all the answers, but we can start positing the questions.
Several of our kits, including ant and worm habitats, are designed so that they can be interlinked to the Eco Dome. Water creatures, including the Triops we sell, can live in the sea. All kits are supplied with joiner tubes. Or you can buy more than one Eco Dome and set up a Desert biome and a Rainforest biome, for example.
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