Columbia University on Monday (September 8) announced that, effective December 22, its researchers would leave the troubled Biosphere 2. Columbia will cut its 7-year ties to the Oracle, Ariz., facility as part of the settlement of a lawsuit against them by Biosphere 2's owners, Decisions Investments Corporation.

The suit, filed in March, claimed that Columbia had failed to hire six full-time research faculty members, ended plans to build a new lab, and cut financial backing of the facility. Columbia sends approximately 200 students each year to Biosphere 2 to attend classes and conduct research with the resident scientists, but all educational programs will be discontinued at the end of this semester. Columbia has also requested that all research equipment, including custom-made instruments, be returned to the university by the end of this year.

What will happen next is uncertain. "Right now, we're turning our attention to exploring viable options...

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