DRI's History

In 1959, the Nevada State Legislature passed NRS396.7951, creating a division of the University of Nevada specifically devoted to conducting research.

From this, a small group of farsighted scientists, academic leaders, and entrepreneurs created the Desert Research Institute, a unique organization that combined the classic academic tradition of high quality basic research with the productive focus of applied interdisciplinary research. DRI became an autonomous division of the University of Nevada System (now called the Nevada System of Higher Education), on equal footing with its two educational campuses, in 1969. Before that, it functioned as a research division of what is now the system's northern university campus.

Through its studies to understand basic environmental processes, DRI also has served its earliest mission—the management and understanding of Nevada's arid land resources. DRI also has proven to be extremely responsive to the world's changing priorities. It has shifted the emphasis of much of its research to address environmental issues on a global scale and conducts studies on every continent in the world.

DRI's research calls on the expertise and methods of scientists from multiple scientific disciplines. DRI's highly skilled researchers are able to collaboratively apply their expertise toward effectively solving multi-faceted scientific questions, and this collective approach to research has helped make DRI successful in producing research of the highest quality and in competing for research funding.


DRI Facts

  • 560 employees
  • 400+ global research projects
  • 150 Ph.D. research faculty specializing in more than 40 scientific fields
  • 60 specialized labs, including a mountaintop observatory in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and a Solar Research Facility in Boulder City, Nevada
  • $30 million in annual revenue from research grants and contracts, state support and private-sector research and development
  • More than 50 DRI faculty teach courses and advise students at universities and colleges throughout the Nevada System of Higher Education
  • DRI invest $1.6 million in non-state dollars for graduate student research at University of Nevada, Reno and University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Since 2000, DRI entrepreneurial faculty have leveraged $110 Million in state appropriation from the Nevada State Legislature to attract more than $510 Million in external research grants and contracts from federal, local and private sponsors. DRI provides the State of Nevada with a $4.6-to-$1 direct return on its investment.