Desert Research Institute

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THE DESERT RESEARCH INSTITUTE (DRI) is the nonprofit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), with primary research campuses in Las Vegas and Reno and additional campuses in Boulder City, Nevada, and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The DRI combines the academic world and entrepreneurialism, and faculty members are responsible for securing resources for their salaries. DRI faculty members do not receive state support, nor are their positions tenure-track. The DRI employs more than 500 faculty, support staff, and students who are engaged in one of approximately 300 projects producing about $50 million in total annual revenue. The DRI has an extensive list of private, public, and academic partners and ranks as one of the top 50 recipients of grants in Nevada.

Atmospheric Sciences, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, and Hydrologic Sciences comprise the principal divisions of the DRI, and the four interdisciplinary centers include those for Advanced Visualization, Computation, and Modeling; Arid Lands Environmental Management; Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability; and Environmental Remediation and Monitoring. The DRI is committed to the effective oversight and management of Nevada's resources, balancing the development of the resources of Nevada with the protection of its environment and meeting the needs for economic expansion and science-based educational programs.

The DRI's educational programs offer environmental programs, including ecology, atmospheric sciences, hydrology, fundamental health and sciences, as well as environmental literature, agriculture, mining, and engineering. The Desert Research Libraries at Las Vegas and Reno maintain collections and services to support the DRI scientific community and other scholars. Resources include archival materials, aerial photographs, the DRI reports, maps, posters, and safety videotapes. One of the academic programs with which the DRI is affiliated is the Academy for the Environment, established in 2004, at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), as a multidisciplinary institute aimed at developing, enhancing, and coordinating environmental teaching, research, and service at the university. The faculty of the DRI are integral through teaching in the atmospheric sciences, ecology, evolution and conservation biology, environmental sciences and health, and hydrologic sciences graduate programs.

The DRI, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), Sierra Nevada College in California, and the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), have formed a unique partnership offering intensive courses on the environment and sustainability, at the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences (TCES). The Storm Peak Laboratory (SPL), constructed during the summer of 1995 and operated by the Atmospheric Sciences Center of the Desert Research Institute, provides an opportunity for students ranging from middle school through graduate school to participate in basic and applied science. The DRI faculty members teach a course in Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Nevada that includes two weeks of field research at the Storm Peak Laboratory. Students gain experience in proposals and project planning.

Students from kindergarten through senior high school have benefited from curriculum development sponsored by the DRI. During summer workshops, kindergarten-12th grade science teachers designed portable instruction modules to be circulated continuously to teachers throughout Nevada for the Desert Research Institute's Science Box Traveling Kits Program. Instructional science topics were based on Nevada's state guidelines for required science education. In 1999, a grant allowed teachers from Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Utah to participate in the workshop program and return to their states to advocate for similar Science Box programs.

Dr. Joseph R. McConnell, a snow hydrologist from the DRI, received a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to analyze whether forces other than global warming could be responsi ble for changes in snowfall and melting in Greenland. McConnell and his colleagues will examine extracted ice cores to determine if recent patterns in Greenland correspond to natural cycles in North Atlantic weather. The study is significant because extreme melting in Greenland has impacts reaching far beyond its own boundaries. Among other priorities of the DRI is research focused on the preservation of Lake Tahoe, Lake Walker, and Lake Mead. Additionally, DRI research efforts have included the investigation of air quality conditions at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11, and working in partnership in west Africa to bring potable water resources to rural villages. Future work includes studying remote sensing to predict environmental change and assist in resource planning.

SEE ALSO: Nevada; University of California.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Desert Research Institute, (cited September 2007); "DRI's Science Program Gets Boost of $60,000," Las Vegas Business Press (June 21, 1999); Foundation Center, (cited September 2007); A.C. Revkin, "An Icy Riddle as Big as Greenland," New York Times (June 8, 2004); Sierra Nevada College, (cited September 2007); Martin Van Der Werf, "Sierra Nevada College Looks for Partners," Chronicle of Higher Education (v.53/2, 2006).

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