About DRI

Impactful Science, Inspiring Solutions

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) is a recognized world leader in basic and applied environmental research. Committed to scientific excellence and integrity, DRI faculty, students who work alongside them, and staff have developed scientific knowledge and innovative technologies in research projects around the globe.

Since 1959, DRI’s research has advanced scientific knowledge on topics ranging from humans’ impact on the environment to the environment’s impact on humans. DRI’s impactful science and inspiring solutions support Nevada’s diverse economy, provide science-based educational opportunities, and inform policymakers, business leaders, and community members.

With campuses in Las Vegas and Reno, DRI serves as the non-profit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Research & Education

scientists launching drone into wildfire

Atmospheric Sciences

Research and services related to air quality and associated health risks, climate, cloud and aerosol physics, renewable energy, fire science, and atmospheric dynamics.

Dr. Kumud Acharya sifting through water

Hydrologic Sciences

Research, development, and education services contributing to society’s fundamental understanding of hydrologic systems and advancing the sustainability of water resources.

scientist pointing at hieroglyphics

Earth & Ecosystem Sciences 

Research in the life & earth sciences, particularly those dealing with the complex interactions of geological processes, organisms, biological communities, and human societies.

teachers listening to a presentation

Education & Workforce Development

Training Nevada's K-12 teachers and providing professional development opportunities and training for education-based activities.

scientists in a lab

Our Faculty and Staff

DRI’s faculty members are nontenured, entrepreneurial and responsible for their own salaries from external grants and contracts. This blend of academic rigor and private-sector pragmatism has earned DRI a reputation for delivering rapid, high-quality environmental science in a businesslike fashion.

Mission & Vision


We are a home for science to create a better future for the people of Nevada and the world. We implement our mission through shared governance and by fostering diverse talent.


We envision a world in which trust between scientists and the public forms the basis for a more sustainable and resilient environment for all people to live, grow, and prosper.

Established in 1959

“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.”

The primary purposes of the Institute are to:


Foster and conduct fundamental scientific, economic, social or educational investigations and applied research for industry, governmental or private agencies or individuals;


Encourage and foster a desire in students and faculty to conduct research;


Discover and develop talent for conducting research;


Acquire and disseminate knowledge related to the projects undertaken; and


Promote all research within the System generally.

Photo of ITAP project excavation.

Research Highlights

Check out our latest Research Highlights 2023 Volume 2 Story Map to see a selection of DRI’s impactful research and featured projects.


Our Story

In 1959, the Nevada State Legislature passed Nevada Revised Statue (NRS) 396.795, creating a division of the University of Nevada system specifically devoted to conducting research. From this legislative action, a small group of farsighted scientists, academic leaders, and entrepreneurs created the Desert Research Institute (DRI), a unique organization that combines the classic academic tradition of high-quality basic research with the productive focus of applied, interdisciplinary research.

$47 million in sponsored research

600+ Scientists, engineers, students, and staff

300+ Projects

140+ PhD Research Faculty

40 Specialized Labs & Facilities

$9 in total economic benefit to Nevada for every $1 in state investment

Two Research campuses

One Mission to advance science and apply solutions