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DRI names Lawrence Buja new Vice President for Research

Reno, NV (Friday, January 5, 2018): Lawrence Buja, Ph.D., has been named the new Vice President for Research (VPR) for Nevada’s Desert Research Institute.

Dr. Buja comes to Nevada from Colorado, where he serves as the Scientific Program Development Lead in the Research Applications Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Buja 1“I’m incredibly honored to take on this role with such a respected and accomplished research organization,” said Buja, who will start with DRI on February 15, 2018. “DRI has an incredible reputation and I am really looking forward to working with President Averyt and all of the faculty and staff to bring Nevada and DRI’s world-leading interdisciplinary research and new technologies to bear on critical state, national and international socio-environmental problems.”

Serving in the role of VPR, Dr. Buja will work closely with DRI President, Dr. Kristen Averyt to engage research funding agencies, private sector partners, and other external constituencies to invest in DRI’s scientific mission; while also promoting and fostering a collaborative research environment and working with DRI’s senior leadership team to bolster the Institute’s existing research enterprise and develop new partnerships across both academia and industry

“Throughout the selection process Dr. Buja exhibited a genuine passion and commitment to advancing DRI’s collaborative research environment,” said President Averyt. “He has an extensive track record of successfully leading large scientific programs, building strong funding relationships, and enhancing community partnerships – all of which showcase his impressive credentials. I’m confident his experience will be advantageous for DRI in this central new role.”

Dr. Buja’s research background includes more than 25 years of experience with expertise in high-performance computing for atmospheric modeling, management of large environmental data sets and most recently applied research on the human dimensions of environmental extremes and climate change.

During his tenure at NCAR, Dr. Buja was instrumental in growing and sustaining the center’s climate research programs and securing funding to advance technology transfer and develop significant partnerships – such as co-leading the launch phase of the $70M NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center.

Early in his career, Dr. Buja helped develop the climate models and carry out the future-climate simulations that contributed to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He also contributed to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

DRI’s Acting Vice President for Research, Dr. Jim Thomas will retire in February, after serving in the position since July 2017. Formerly he served as Executive Director of DRI’s Division of Hydrologic Sciences for six years, prior to which he worked at the Institute as a hydrologist for 12 years.

Thomas has lead and contributed to pioneering research on understanding Nevada’s groundwater systems; evaluating the effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs) in the Lake Tahoe basin; determining the hydrology of the Walker Lake watershed; and developing water supplies for rural villages in West Africa.

“I look forward to welcoming Dr. Buja to DRI and I’m confident his enthusiasm and altruistic leadership style will help lead DRI into the future,” said Thomas.


The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is a recognized world leader in investigating the effects of natural and human-induced environmental change and advancing technologies aimed at assessing a changing planet. For more than 50 years DRI research faculty, students, and staff have applied scientific understanding to support the effective management of natural resources while meeting Nevada's needs for economic diversification and science-based educational opportunities. With campuses in Reno and Las Vegas, DRI serves as the non-profit environmental research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education. For more information, please visit