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DRI Fire Ecologist Awarded Nevada Regents’ Rising Researcher

Assistant Professor Adam Watts honored for his early career accomplishments

RENO – The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents recognized Adam Watts, Ph.D., with its Nevada Regents’ Rising Researcher Award during its March 4 meeting.

Dr. Adam WattsDr. Watts is an Assistant Professor of Fire Ecology and lead for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) work in DRI’s Atmospheric Sciences Division; and serves as Deputy Director of the DRI’s Climate, Ecosystem and Fire Applications (CEFA) program.

He was recognized for his early-career accomplishments and potential for future advancement in the unique areas of wildland fire science and UAS research. The honor is given annually to one NSHE faculty member from DRI, UNR, and UNLV.

Dr. Watts recently led a team of DRI scientists and Drone America engineers who successfully flight tested the first-ever autonomous cloud seeding aircraft platform. He also serves as the principal investigator for two industry-academic projects at DRI, supported by Nevada’s Knowledge Fund and focused on commercializing UAS technologies and applications.

His research interests include fire ecology and fire science; interactive effects of ecosystem processes and disturbance on landscapes; ecological restoration; and the development and commercialization of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for ecological and natural-resources applications.

"Dr. Watts represents the best of DRI, in both his strong competitiveness to secure research funding from diverse sponsors and in his collaborative approach to science," said Dr. Alan Gertler, DRI’s Vice President for Research and Chief Science Officer. "He brings a great energy to every project and his outreach to the UAS industry to leverage Nevada’s FAA Test Site designation for research and development will continue to put our state at the forefront of this exciting field."

Dr. Watts’s other projects include investigating UAS for wildland firefighter situational awareness, fire detection and monitoring, and post-fire mapping and rehabilitation monitoring. He works with a number of local Nevada industry partners, as well as collaborating researchers and businesses abroad, to produce partnerships and innovations to better serve the science and operational needs of firefighters and natural resource agencies around the world.

Prior to joining the faculty at DRI, Watts studied and worked at University of Florida on fire ecology. His projects included a strong applied component, and reflect a desire to translate his research to solve important natural resource management questions.

Dr. Watts previously coordinated a multidisciplinary program to develop handheld, amphibious UAS for surveys of levees, invasive plant-control programs, and wildlife populations that continues to enjoy success. He also worked as an alligator biologist, served as an agroforestry extensionist with the Peace Corps in Guinea, and was a volunteer firefighter with federal wildland firefighter certification.

He received his B.S. degree in Biology from Emory University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida.  

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