"To contribute more effectively to the security of the nation and to promote the general welfare of the State of Nevada and its citizens through the development of educational and scientific research, the Board of Regents may establish for educational and scientific research a facility within the system to be known as the Desert Research Institute."
- NRS 396.795

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Since its founding by an act of the Nevada State Legislature on March 23, 1959, the Desert Research Institute (DRI) has combined the classic academic tradition of high-quality basic research with the productive focus of applied, interdisciplinary research. 

Through its studies to understand environmental processes, DRI has served its earliest mission: the management and understanding of Nevada's arid lands. DRI also has proven to be responsive to the changing priorities of communities near and far, shifting the emphasis of much of its research to address environmental issues on a global scale.

From its home bases in Reno and Las Vegas, DRI now conducts research on all seven continents.