Early projects such as weather modification, or cloud seeding, and groundwater research at the Nevada Test Site quickly established DRI as a leader in these fields. Design of Nevada’s first greenhouses to conduct climate-controlled experiments and development of the first scientific approach to estimate groundwater recharge in the Great Basin were also early landmark projects.
In the 1970s, DRI’s involvement in climate research in Greenland and Antarctica began and continues to this day. Several other major accomplishments included helping establish the first satellite communications link between the United States and Antarctica, and completing significant projects at the Nevada Test Site such as a groundwater map that led to 3-dimensional groundwater model development and identification of more than 2,400 prehistoric and historic cultural sites.
The next decade found DRI pioneering chemical “fingerprinting” to track air pollution to its source. Using remote sensing, technology using satellites, aircraft and other distant instrumentation to study the Earth, safe drinking water wells for West African villagers were discovered.
The DRI Research Foundation was created to raise funds to support new research. DRI became home to the Western Regional Climate Center, one of six climate centers nationwide, which disseminates U.S. climate data and fosters better use of this information in decision-making, conducts applied climate research, and improves coordination of climate-related activities at the state, regional and national levels.
As DRI moved into the 1990s, researchers helped establish and manage the first Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site on the Antarctic continent. A nationwide National Science Foundation network, LTERs are set up to gather long-term basic ecological data about various ecosystems.
DRI scientists were also involved in the discovery of the first fluted point used by people 10,000 years ago on the Russian side of the Bering Strait, and they embarked on a collaborative 10-year international climate research project to understand and predict the forces that shape the world’s weather.
2000 - Present
The new millennium brought DRI scientists international recognition in many prestigious scientific journals. EcoCELL research was among them.
Plots of prairie grass that were transported from Oklahoma to Reno are grown under strict controls to study the effects of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Preserving 1,000 of the life-sized Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses in a Chinese museum from the effects of air pollution, high temperatures and humidity is a major DRI project. The artifacts, numbering 7,000 in total, were found in the tomb of China’s first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC–206 BC). Other ongoing projects include the study of ice core samples from Greenland and Antarctica to examine and understand climate change.
DRI’s GreenPower program for K-12 schools and students in cooperation with NV Energy, the Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) downwind of the Nevada Test Site, and studies at Lake Tahoe, Lake Mead and the Walker River Basin are good examples of research and outreach that directly improve lives in Nevada.