Earth and Ecosystem Sciences

The Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences (DEES) is one of three scientific research divisions within DRI. Since its inception in 1999, DEES has grown steadily and built a strong program of research, development, and education in the earth and ecosystem sciences. The DEES research portfolio reflects the interplay between local, state, national, and international environmental issues, the expertise of our faculty, and the availability of research funding.

The mission of DEES is to conduct high-quality basic and 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. We strive to be responsive to the scientific community through publications and service, to develop the next generation of scientists, and to help inform the general public on issues of vital environmental concern. We address our mission through multidisciplinary research and education, with a highly diverse faculty supported by graduate research assistants and technicians. DEES has approximately 80 ongoing research projects with an annual budget of approximately $14 million, primarily derived from external research sponsors. View the division fact sheet (PDF)

Excited children conducting experiments in the forest.
A historic ranching cabin<br />
at an archaeological site in Nye County, NV.
DRI Researchers<br />
conducting native plant<br />
research in the Eastern Mojave Desert, NV

Our Research Areas


Archaeology & Anthropology


Architectural History


Cultural Resources Management


Data Analytics & Spatial Analysis (GIS, Remote Sensing, UAS)


Ecology, Ecohydrology, Conservation Ecology & Land Management


Quaternary Paleoecology


Microbial Sciences, Life in Extreme Environments & Biotechnology


Soil Biogeochemistry & Carbon Dynamics


STEM Education & Citizen Science


Terrain Analysis/Geomorphology/Geochronology


Traditional Ecological Knowledge & Climate Change

Our Faculty and Staff

Meet the people doing Earth & Ecosystems Science research and innovation at DRI.

Our Laboratories

Our Services & Capabilities

Archeology & Anthropology

Archaeological material analysis; Archaeological photogrammetry; Geoarchaeology; Historic preservation of cultural sites; Study of ancient species; ecosystems & climates.

Architectural History

Federal rehabilitation tax credit applications; Historic context statements; Historic district surveys; Historic structure reports; National register of historic places evaluations and nominations; Secretary of the Interior’ standards compliance reports.

Cultural Resources Management

Cultural places and constructions of importance to tribes; Cultural resources inventory and recording; Early history Euro-American entry and occupation; Section 106 and 110 of the; National Historic Preservation Act Compliance Reports; Section 106 agreement documents (MOAs; PAs); Tribal consultation and engagement.


Data Analytics and Spatial Analysis (GIS; Remote Sensing; UAS)

3D point-cloud modeling; Analytics, informatics, machine learning and data visualization; Medical resources access evaluation and mapping; Species distribution modeling and habitat mapping; Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) applications and development; Water resources and water rights mapping.


Ecology; Ecohydrology; Conservation Ecology and Land Management

Desert land restoration and management; Plant and ecosystem ecology, Rare plant ecology; Wetland identification and restoration.


Microbial Sciences; Life in Extreme Environments and Biotechnology

Astrobiology; Biogeochemistry of extreme environments; Environmental genomics and bioinformatic analysis; Microbial diversity of aquatic, cryosphere, and arid ecosystems; Microbial natural products; Microscopy and flow cytometric analysis of aquatic microorganisms; Molecular microbial ecology.


Soil Biogeochemistry and Carbon Dynamics

Ecosystem and agricultural sustainability; Ecosystem flux measurements (H2O; CH4; CO2; N2O); Wildfire ecology.

STEM Education & Citizen Science

All-ages education; Educator Professional Development Trainings; Community and citizen science engagement; K-12 STEM education; Workforce Development.


Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Climate Change

Climate resilience on native lands; Native and indigenous agriculture and food sovereignty; Sharing indigenous climate knowledge and stories; Sustaining water and natural resources on native lands.


Terrain Analysis / Geomorphology / Geochronology

Dust and aerosol characterization; Geochemical modeling; Geochronology and luminescence dating; Geoscience support for military operations; Quaternary geomorphology; Soil science and soil testing.

Our Research Partners

Federal Sponsors

Department of Energy

Department of Defense

Department of Education

Department of Interior

National Aeronautics & Space Administration

National Science Foundation

U.S. Department of Agriculture

State Sponsors

Nevada Division of Environmental Protection

Governor’s Office of Economic Development

Nevada System of Higher Education

Nevada Department of Transportation

Nevada Natural Heritage Program


Nevada Space Grant

Local Government

Clark County

Nevada Tahoe Conservation District

Southern Nevada Water Authority

Lincoln County

City of Henderson

Walker River Irrigation District

Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

Nonprofit & Private Partners

The Nature Conservancy

National Geographic Society

NV Energy

E.L. Cord Foundation

Southwest Gas

Nevada Museum of Art

ASM Affiliates

Castle Mountain Venture an Equinox Gold Group Company


Philippe Vidon, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Earth and Ecosystem Sciences
Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV 89512