About Earth and Ecosystem Sciences

Researchers in DRI's Earth and Ecosystem Sciences come from a wide variety of scientific backgrounds but have a broad unifying interest in the causes, mechanisms, and history of landscape change over a range of spatial and temporal scales. Landscapes in this context include the geomorphic surface environment, the soils mantling the surface, and the vegetation and other biota (including humans) that inhabit and modify it.

The following disciplines are among those presently covered by the Earth and Ecosystem scientists:

  • Quaternary Geochronology
  • Geomorphology
  • Paleoecology
  • Biogeochemical Cycling
  • Plant Ecophysiology
  • Life in Extreme Environments
  • Biological Responses to Global Change
  • Restoration Ecology
  • Soils Science
  • Microbial Ecology
  • Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Historic Preservation
  • Remote Sensing and GIS
  • Natural Hazards Assessment
  • Alternative Environmental Futures Assessment
  • Polar Regions Studies
  • Microbial genomics, metagenomics, and bioinformatics


In July 1999, the Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (DEES) was formed following the merger of DRI’s Biological Sciences Center and Quaternary Sciences Center.  The result is a remarkably diverse collection of scientists, with a range of research interests and expertise that challenges any simple categorization or single research focus.  In the broadest terms, DEES scientists all contribute to a greater understanding of the history and processes affecting landscapes, the earth’s surface and its living inhabitants.

In its fourteen-year history, DEES has had five Executive Directors.  Dr. Alan Gillespie directed DEES while on leave from the University of Washington from July 1999 to July 2000.  Dr. David Rhode, a DEES faculty member, served as Acting Director from August 2000 until January 1, 2001, when Dr. Michael Auerbach joined DRI as Executive Director of DEES. From 2008 until July 2012, Dr. Paul Verburg, a DEES faculty member, served as the Interim DEES Executive Director. Dr. K. Bruce Jones joined DRI in August 2012 as Executive Director of DEES and since 2014 the current DEES Executive Director is Dr. Beverly Ramsey. 


As of 2012, DEES personnel consists of 54 professional faculty, 6 technical staff members, and 9 graduate students. Among the professional ranks, 45% are in the research faculty track, and the remaining 55% are in the associate track. 

Among the technical staff, three members provide administrative support and three members directly support research programs. Administrative support is provided to all of the major facilities within DEES in both Reno and Las Vegas.

Bird of prey perched on rock at the DRI Northern campusMission

Our mission is to do high-quality applied research in the life and earth sciences, particularly those dealing with the complex interactions of geological processes, organisms, biological communities and human societies on the earth's surface. By performing research in these fields, we will strive to be responsive to the scientific community through publications and service, and to help educate the general public on issues of vital environmental concern.

Download our fact sheets and discover more. 

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