About DRI

Science That Matters Now

We are Nevada’s non-profit research institute, founded in 1959 to empower experts to focus on science that matters. We work with communities across the state –and the world– to address their most pressing scientific questions, while building bridges between scientists and policymakers to enact positive change.

We’re proud that our scientists continuously produce solutions that better human and environmental health. We pioneered the use of chemical fingerprinting to identify sources of air pollution in Nevada’s cities and reduce haze in National Parks across the country. We work with communities downwind of historic atomic testing at the Nevada National Security Site to monitor radiation exposure. We used ice trapped below the surface of Greenland to connect historic levels of lead pollution with the rise and fall of ancient economies like the Roman Empire. For decades, we have been using satellite technology to locate, and build, drinking water wells for communities in Ghana and we have enhanced precipitation throughout Nevada, the driest state in the nation, using decades of research on cloud seeding.

Scientists at DRI are involved with students at other Nevada System of Higher Education institutions, offering research positions and teaching support, but are not expected to take on the heavy teaching loads of university professors. Instead, they are encouraged to follow their research interests across the traditional boundaries of scientific fields, collaborating across DRI and with scientists worldwide. We reach thousands of young Nevada students annually with specialized science and robotics lessons and free continuing education for teachers. All faculty support their own research through grants, bringing in nearly $5 to the Nevada economy for every $1 of state funds received. With more than 600 scientists, engineers, students, and staff across our Reno and Las Vegas campuses, we conducted more than $47 million in sponsored research focused on improving peoples’ lives in 2023 alone.

At DRI, science isn’t merely academic – it’s the key to future-proofing our communities and building a better world.

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