DRI Nevada Medal

Recognizing outstanding scientific, engineering & technical achievement

2021 DRI Nevada Medal Online Viewing

Sea, Earth and Sky : Celebrating the Spirit of Scientific Exploration, Discovery and Innovation 

The 2021 DRI Nevada Medal honors Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, the 31st DRI Nevada Medalist. A key feature of the hour-long online program is a highly-anticipated conversation with Dr. Sullivan as she shares eye-opening viewpoints about the state of planet Earth today.

About the DRI Nevada Medal

The Nevada Medal is the highest scientific honor in the state and recognized around the world. The distinguished award acknowledges outstanding achievement in the fields of science, technology and engineering.

The DRI Nevada Medal was established in 1988 to acknowledge outstanding achievement in science and engineering. Since then, the DRI Foundation has honored individuals whose prominent research contributions have ranged from mapping the human genome and explaining protein folding to discovering ancient hydrothermal vents in the Galapagos and advancing our knowledge of archaeological discoveries across the globe.

Financial support from donors raised through these and other important Foundation events helps fund timely, innovative and life-saving environmental scientific research and development by DRI’s very own award-winning scientists and faculty.

Nevada Medal Winners (1988 – 2021)

Read below to learn about current and previous Nevada Medal winners. 

31st Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Kathryn Sullivan

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, winner of the 2021 Nevada Medal

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan is a distinguished scientist, astronaut, explorer and author of Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention.

“The scale, the immensity, and power of our planet and its systems are very impressive, no two ways about it. It’s extraordinary. At the same time, my perspectives have taught me that every one of the systems of our planet, the geological, the biological, the forest, the trees, the air, the water, the ocean — things we tend to think of as separate —are really, richly, pervasively interconnected,” said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan.

Dr. Sullivan began her career in oceanography, then joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1978, where she became the first American woman to walk in space. During her 15 years with NASA, Dr. Sullivan flew on three space shuttle missions, including the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. Following her tenure at NASA, Dr. Sullivan held senior executive positions with Ohio’s Center of Science and Industry (COSI), Ohio State University’s Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy, and Presidential appointments to the National Science Board and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She currently serves on a number of corporate and non-profit boards and is a Senior Fellow with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, an independent non-profit public policy research institute in Virginia. In 2019, Sullivan published “Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut’s Story of Invention,” in which she describes her work on the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble Space Telescope.

“We are thrilled to honor Dr. Sullivan for her work with NASA and NOAA.  In addition to being an accomplished astronaut, Dr. Sullivan led NOAA with the focus on environmental research in order to better understand the changing environment here on Earth and beyond,” said Kumud Acharya, Ph.D., President of DRI. “While at NOAA, Dr. Sullivan shaped the notion of environmental intelligence, as she calls it, to create timely, accurate, and actionable environmental information to drive decisions about our changing climate.”

30th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Marcia McNutt

The Desert Research Institute (DRI) proudly announces the selection of Dr. Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council, as its 2017 DRI Nevada Medalist.

Established in 1988 to acknowledge outstanding achievement in the fields of science and engineering, the DRI Nevada Medal is the highest scientific honor in the state. The 30th DRI Nevada Medal award will be presented by the DRI Foundation during events planned in Reno and Las Vegas in September, 2017.

A distinguished geophysicist, Dr. McNutt’s research focuses on marine geophysics, where she has published more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and helped develop a variety of remote sensing techniques to understand the origin of clusters of volcanoes in the middle of tectonic plates.. From 2013 to 2016, she served as editor-in-chief of the Science family of journals, prior to which she served as director of the U.S. Geological Survey from 2009 to 2013, during which time USGS responded to a number of major disasters, including the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“I am grateful for the recognition of the Nevada Medal not just for all that it means to me personally, but also because it validates the concept that one can forego one’s own personal research career and still have impact through leadership and service to science and the nation,” said Dr. McNutt.

As the first female president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), an independent organization conceived by President Abraham Lincoln and chartered by Congress with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology, McNutt serves on the forefront of science education and communication to the highest levels in US government.

Before joining the USGS in 2009, McNutt served as president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), in Moss Landing, California. During her time at MBARI, the institution became a leader in developing biological and chemical sensors for remote ocean deployment, installed the first deep-sea cabled observatory in U.S. waters, and advanced the integration of artificial intelligence into autonomous underwater vehicles for complex undersea missions.

Her previous honors include membership in the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She holds honorary doctoral degrees from the Colorado College, the University of Minnesota, Monmouth University, and the Colorado School of Mines. In 1988, she was awarded the American Geophysical Union’s Macelwane Medal for research accomplishments by a young scientist, and she received the Maurice Ewing Medal in 2007 for her contributions to deep-sea exploration.

“Dr. McNutt is a true inspiration,” said DRI Acting President, Dr. Robert Gagosian. “She represents the extraordinary achievements that can be accomplished and the significant impact one can have on science and the public’s perception of how to solve our most difficult problems and the greatest challenges facing our planet and all of humankind. She is an exceptional mentor and has shaped the careers of so many people with her desire to instill in people her love for science.”

The 30th annual DRI Nevada Medal events are scheduled for Monday, September 25th, 2017 at the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino in Reno; and Wednesday, September 27th, 2017 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Over the last 29 years, the DRI Foundation has honored individuals in science and engineering whose prominent research contributions have ranged from mapping the human genome and explaining protein folding to discovering hydrothermal vents from the ocean floor off the Galapagos and advancing our knowledge of archaeological discoveries across the globe.

Recent recipients of the DRI Nevada Medal include Duke University professor and unmanned systems expert Dr. Missy Cummings; NASA astrobiologist and Mars Science Laboratory mission member Dr. Chris McKay; and National Geographic Explorer and the University of California, San Diego research scientist Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin. A full list of all 29 award recipients is available online at www.dri.edu/nvmedal.

The DRI Nevada Medal award includes an eight-ounce minted medallion of .999 pure Nevada silver and $20,000 lecture honorarium.

View the Nevada Medal Event recording: https://youtu.be/-Bc85FOGnb4

29th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Mary "Missy" Cummings

As the director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University, Dr. Mary “Missy” Cummings, Ph.D., leads a pioneering team of researchers and engineers focused on the complex interactions of human interaction with unmanned aerial systems (UAS), commonly known as drones; and the social and ethical implications of such new technologies that have the potential to dramatically impact both industry and humanity.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award which is a reflection not just on my efforts but on all my students and fellow researchers who struggled in the trenches for years to move unmanned aerial vehicles, aka UAVs or drones into the mainstream,” said Dr. Cummings. “It was exactly 10 years ago that an editor of a prestigious journal told me that UAV research was of little utility since they would never gain widespread acceptance. So this award represents an important milestone for both me and the larger UAV community.”

Dr. Cummings spent eleven years (1988–1999) as a naval officer and military pilot, earning the rank of lieutenant, and was one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, flying an F/A-18 Hornet. Following a successful career in the military, she directed her passion for technology to academia and became a strong public advocate for the promotion of the responsible use of drone technology and related policies for both the military and the growing commercial and civilian industries.

She is currently an associate professor in the Duke University Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, the Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, and the Duke Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. She is also an affiliate professor with the University of Washington’s Aeronautics and Astronautics Department. She received her B.S. in Mathematics from the US Naval Academy in 1988, her M.S. in Space Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1994, and her Ph.D. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2004.

“Innovation demands increased responsibility and public understanding,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President, “This is especially true in the case of autonomous systems and unmanned aerial systems. We are excited to honor Dr. Missy Cummings for her exceptional role as a champion of women in science and the military; and her work in advancing these new technologies and advocating for cutting-edge scientific research and responsible policy that will impact humanity for years to come.”

Dr. Cummings is the second engineer and fourth female research scientist and to receive the DRI Nevada Medal.

View the Nevada Medal Event recording: https://youtu.be/h-s1QCIvli8

28th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Chris McKay

Dr. Christopher McKay, an astrobiologist and planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, has spent more than 30 years advancing human understanding of the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life on Earth.

Astrobiology includes studying life in extreme environments to better understand how to search for life on other planets, like Mars. McKay’s scientific contributions in planning for future Mars missions includes research in Mars-like environments on Earth, traveling to the Antarctic dry valleys, the Canadian Arctic, Siberia, and the Atacama Desert in Chile. He was a co-investigator on the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the current Mars Science Laboratory mission.

“We are very excited to have Dr. McKay continue this wonderful tradition of bringing dynamic scientists to Nevada who have made a profound impact on our planet,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President. “Dr. McKay is one of NASA’s foremost experts on the search for life in Earth’s most extreme environments, and beyond.”

“DRI is also very honored by the continued generous support for this important event by Switch SUPERNAP,” said Dr. Stephen Wells, DRI President.

McKay, an astrobiologist and planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley, has spent more than 30 years advancing human understanding of the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life on Earth.

Astrobiology includes studying life in extreme environments to better understand how to search for life on other planets, like Mars. McKay’s scientific contributions in planning for future Mars missions includes research in Mars-like environments on Earth, traveling to the Antarctic dry valleys, the Canadian Arctic, Siberia, and the Atacama Desert in Chile. He was a co-investigator on the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the current Mars Science Laboratory mission.

“It is my privilege and honor to be named as the 28th DRI Nevada Medalist”, McKay said. “The search for life continues to lead us in directions no one thought possible. Collaboration with scientists around the globe and here in Nevada are bringing us closer to the fundamental question we face as a society: Is there life beyond Earth?”

McKay has collaborated on several DRI projects in the extreme environments of desert and polar regions, including DRI’s notable mission to Lake Vida, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica in 2010. Led by DRI’s Dr. Alison Murray and Dr. Christian Fritsen, the Lake Vida team discovered a viable community of bacteria surviving beneath nearly 20 meters of ice in a dark, salty, subfreezing environment. McKay’s research with DRI’s Dr. Henry Sun on cyanobacteria that eke out a living under the surface of granite and sandstone rocks in the Mojave Desert and Antarctica highlight the unique conditions under which life occurs for some of the Earth’s oldest microorganisms.

View the Nevada Medal Event: https://youtu.be/HWNx9V2L2uA
Dr. McKay speaks with Sandy Miller Elementary School:

27th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Albert Lin

Dr. Lin, whose Chinese name (Yu-Min) roughly translates to “Citizen of the Universe”, is a research scientist at the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and an Emerging Explorer of the National Geographic Society in the field of technology-enabled exploration.

As the creator and Principal Investigator of the Valley of the Khans Project, an international multidisciplinary effort to locate the tomb of Genghis Kahn, Dr. Lin has lead multiple technology driven expeditions deep into the most remote parts of the world and developed innovative platforms for satellite, aerial and subsurface remote sensing in exploration.

His team’s pioneering work to create new methods for massive data analysis through innovative crowdsourcing techniques earned him the 2011 USGIS Academic Achievement award and was featured in a one-hour National Geographic Documentary film, “the Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan”, also in 2011.

“To me, the Nevada Medal comes with the heavy responsibility of honoring the spirit of human curiosity… the desire to seek the unknown, stand at its bank, and venture in,” said Lin, who holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering.

“Today the frontiers of exploration exist in science, driven by a need to expand our knowledge of the world around us, and defined by how we utilize that knowledge. I am humbled and incredibly honored to be a small part of that.”

“Albert is a pioneer in a new era of digital exploration and science education through public engagement,” said DRI President, Dr. Stephen Wells. “His work has motivated participation from thousands of people in real-time, on-the-ground scientific discovery in ways we never imagined. I’m also very excited that we are honoring a material scientist and engineer this year.”

Dr. Lin is the youngest research scientist and the first materials scientist and engineer to receive the DRI Nevada Medal.

Video Presentation from the Nevada Medal Event

Media Coverage:

Video chats with Dr. Lin and Nevada students
Meet Dr. Lin and see how he interacts with Nevada students via video chat. 

26th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Nina Fedoroff

The 2013 DRI Nevada Medal proudly honors Dr. Nina V. Fedoroff for her outstanding achievements in the field of life sciences and biotechnology. Her research on the molecular biology of plants has helped develop modern techniques used to study and modify plants, and she has now undertaken to pioneer solutions to some of the world’s most difficult agricultural challenges.

In the late 1970s when DNA sequencing technology was first developed, Dr. Fedoroff sequenced one of the first large complex organism genes ever to be sequenced. Her early involvement in the field of plant molecular biology and plant genetic modification led her to become one of the leading spokespersons for the use of modern molecular techniques in crop plant improvement. From 2007 to 2010, Fedoroff served as the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State, first under Secretary Rice and more recently under Secretary Clinton.

Fedoroff is a Distinguished Professor of Biosciences and Director of the Center for Desert Agriculture at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, where she is establishing an experimental program in crop and aquaculture biology and technology for arid climates. She is also an Evan Pugh Professor at Penn State University and a member of the External Faculty and Science Advisory Board of the Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, NM. She has served on the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board, as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and is currently serving as the Chair of the AAAS Board of Directors.

Media Coverage

Video Presentation from the Nevada Medal Event

25th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Steven Squyres

Steven Squyres, Ph. D. has shown the world what discoveries are possible in outer space with his passionate interest in and exploration of Mars and space. Best known for his research on the history and distribution of water on Mars, Squyres acted as the scientific Principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover Project (MERS). He has also extensively studied the possible existence and habitability of a liquid water ocean on Europa. His research and discoveries encourage us to explore outside of what is already known, and to look to space for the future of science and technology.

Squyres has been enthusiastic about the exploration of Mars since he was an undergraduate student at Cornell University. “What I really wanted, when you got right down to it, was martian dirt on my own boots. And if I couldn’t have that, I wanted the next best thing,” Squyres said in the prologue of his book, Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet, which has also been adapted to film by Disney.

In addition to his studies of Mars, Squyres has also been involved in several planetary spaceflight missions with NASA, including the Voyager Mission to Jupiter and Saturn, the Magellan Mission to Venus, the Cassini Mission to Saturn and the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous Mission. He is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, where he received his Ph.D. in planetary science. He has won various respected awards including the 2004 Carl Sagan Memorial Award and the 2009 Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Communication in Planetary Science. He has also been recognized by “ABC News,” “The Colbert Report” and Wired magazine, in addition to publishing work in various esteemed scientific publications such as “Science” and “Journal of Geophysical Research.”

24th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Robert Ballard

“I grew up wanting to be Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

Best known for his 1985 discovery of the TITANIC, Dr. Robert Ballard has succeeded in tracking down numerous other significant shipwrecks, including the German battleship BISMARCK, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the U.S. aircraft carrier YORKTOWN (sunk in the World War II Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy’s boat, PT-109.

While those discoveries have captured the imagination of the public, Dr. Ballard believes his most important discoveries were of hydrothermal vents and “black smokers” in the Galapagos Rift and East Pacific Rise in 1977 and 1979 along with their exotic life forms living off the energy of the Earth through a process now called chemosynthesis.

In addition to being a National Geographic Society Explorer-In-Residence and a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, Dr. Ballard is the founder and president of the Institute for Exploration (IFE) in Mystic, CT.

Ballard was born June 30, 1942, in Wichita, KS but moved to California at a very young age and grew up exploring the shore in San Diego. Dr. Ballard has a Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics from the University of Rhode Island. He spent 30 years at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he helped develop telecommunications technology to create “tele-presence” for his JASON Project and Immersion Learning, which allows hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren to accompany him from afar on undersea explorations around the globe each year. In 2001, he returned to the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island where he is presently a tenured Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Ocean Exploration and Archaeological Oceanography.

Dr. Ballard has 21 honorary degrees and six military awards. He was also a Commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving in the Navy from 1967 to 1997. He received the National Geographic Society’s prestigious Hubbard Medal in 1996 for “extraordinary accomplishments in coaxing secrets from the world’s oceans and engaging students in the wonder of science.” Dr. Ballard has published numerous books, scientific papers, and a dozen articles in National Geographic magazine. Dr. Ballard also has been featured in several National Geographic television programs, including the record-breaking “Secrets of the TITANIC.”

His discoveries also include sunken remains of ships along ancient trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea; two ancient Phoenician ships off Israel, the oldest shipwrecks ever found in deep water; and four 1,500-year-old wooden ships, one almost perfectly preserved in the Black Sea. Dr. Ballard’s Black Sea project seeks evidence of a great flood that may have struck the region thousands of years ago.

His 1997 best-selling book, Lost Liners, tells the story of the great transatlantic liners through memorable wrecks he has visited. Dr. Ballard was also a special advisor on Steven Spielberg’s futuristic Sea Quest, DSV television show.

An explorer, discoverer and historian, Dr. Ballard’s fascinating journeys can teach us a great deal about our past, and they have encouraged others to take tremendous strides in the survey of the undiscovered mysteries of the deep sea.

(2010 Recipient)

Audio Interview with Dr. Robert Ballard: Deep Sea Explorer

Source: 04/22/10 KNPR's State of Nevada
Robert Ballard's life so far reads like a movie script: Navy commander starts exploring the ocean, discovers the Titanic, finds a nuclear sub on a top secret mission for the Navy, is one of the first humans to see deep-sea vents. Oh, and he loves to teach kids about the ocean, too. Oceanographer Robert Ballard joins us to talk about a life of submarines, underwater robots, and where his next big adventure lies.

23rd Nevada Medal Recipient: Francis Sellers Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute

For his extraordinary achievements, his admirable leadership style, and his genuine concern about important ethical issues regarding genetics, Collins was appointed Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), a division of the National Institutes of Health, in 1993. He served until 2008.

As Director of the NHGRI, Collins oversaw the United States’ role in the Human Genome Project, the international effort to map and sequence the human genome (the complete DNA instruction book). The Human Genome Project began in 1990 with a projected 15-year timetable, but all of its goals were actually completed, ahead of schedule and under budget, in 2003.

Scientists are now using this foundational information to identify and understand the connection between genes and disease. Already, this knowledge has begun a revolution in the field of medicine. It opens the door to a future of individualized preventive medicine, in which individuals can design personalized programs of staying healthy based on their personal genetic makeup. It will also lead to the development of more effective drugs and therapies based on a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of disease.

(2009 Recipient)

22nd Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. James E. Hansen

Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Dr. Hansen has studied the effects of greenhouse gases (GHGs) on Earth's climate throughout most of his illustrious career. Through his development and application of global models to explore the potential climate effects of unchecked increases in GHG concentrations, Dr. Hansen has become one of the most prominent and recognizable scientific spokespersons on the topic of climate change. His scientific publications, testimony before congressional committees, media interactions, and other means, have established him as a consistent voice warning about the potential effects of climate change and calling for directed approaches to reduce GHG emissions.

(2008 recipient)

21st Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Susan Lindquist

Member, Whitehead Institute and Professor of Biology, MIT

Dr. Lindquist's work has had an enormous impact in fields as diverse as medicine, bioengineering, basic molecular and cell biology, and evolution.

The underlying theme of her multifaceted work is protein folding and misfolding. Proteins are the basis of how biology gets things done. They start out in the body as long strings of amino acids and have to assemble themselves into complex shapes (a process scientists call folding) before they can do anything. They are the main constituent of our bones, muscles, hair, skin, and blood vessels. What happens if proteins don’t fold correctly? When proteins misfold, they can clump together, and the clumps can often gather in the brain, where they are believed to cause the symptoms of Mad Cow or Alzheimer’s disease. Cystic fibrosis, an inherited form of emphysema, and even many cancers are also believed to result from protein misfolding.

For her many achievements as one of the greatest and most creative molecular biologist of her generation, Dr. Lindquist will be honored at the annual dinner events in Reno and Las Vegas.

(2007 Recipient)

20th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Walter Alvarez

Professor of the Earth and Planetary Sciences department of the University of California, Berkeley

Alvarez is a geologist who considers himself an Earth historian, and is fascinated by the challenge of reading the history of our planet recorded in rocks.

In 1980, he was working with colleagues, including his father, physicist Luis Alvarez, on an expedition in Italy. There, he accidentally discovered a band of sedimentary rock that contained unusually high levels of a rare element, iridium. Chemical dating techniques put the rock at around 65 million years old. Coincidentally -- or not, that is around the time the dinosaurs died out. Alvarez hypothesized that the iridium, which was in a very even, widespread distribution (not just in Italy), was the result of a giant asteroid that hit Earth, sending smoke, dust, and iridium into the atmosphere. That smokescreen blocked the sun, lowering the earth's temperature, killing plants (but not seeds or roots), and eventually many species of animals, including dinosaurs. The plant-eaters died out first, followed by the meat-eaters who would have eaten them. Smaller mammals and birds could survive the cold, desolate period because of their fur, feathers, and ability to eat seeds, roots, and decaying vegetation. The pollution eventually settled to the ground, forming a thin layer of iridium.

In addition to his interest in extinction events and impacts, Alvarez has contributed to the understanding of Mediterranean tectonics, Roman geology and archeology, and the establishment of magnetostratigraphic correlations.

(2006 Recipient)

19th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Donald K. Grayson

Professor of Anthropology and Adjunct Professor, Quaternary Sciences Center, University of Washington

Professor Donald K. Grayson is widely recognized and honored as one of the world’s foremost scientists in archaeology and paleoecology, the branch of science dealing with the interaction between ancient life forms—including humans—and their environments.

Dr. Grayson’s primary areas of research concern human interaction with the landscape and using archaeological data to answer biological questions. His work has focused on the impacts prehistoric hunter-gatherer groups had on their natural landscapes and the effects such change then had on the people themselves. Dr. Grayson has conducted landmark research in wide-ranging but related areas, making fundamental as well as innovative scientific and historical contributions in many disciplines while strongly influencing those who work in them.

An anthropology professor at University of Washington, Dr. Grayson is best known for his innovative research showing that climate change—and not “overkill” by early human hunters—led to the demise of large mammals like the wooly mammoth in North America some 10,000 years ago. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002. Dr. Grayson also served on DRI’s National Scientific Advisory Board.

(2005 Recipient)

18th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Farouk El-Baz

Research Professor and Director, Center for Remote Sensing Boston University

Dr. Farouk El-Baz pioneered environmental remote sensing with satellites and is particularly renown for advances in understanding of the origin and evolution of desert landforms. Professor El-Baz defined the role of alternating wet and dry climate cycles in desert regions and the processes that control the accumulation of desert ground water. He also led the selection of landing sites for NASA's Apollo moon missions and was principal investigator in the joint American-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project emphasizing the imaging of arid environments from space.

A member of the National Academy of Engineering, Dr. El-Baz’s present research involves satellite analysis of ground water potential in arid eastern Arabia, particularly in the Sultanate of Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Former science advisor to the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Professor El-Baz has worked extensively in the region to identify areas suitable for development outside the Nile Valley. In 1999, the Geological Society of America established the annual "Farouk El-Baz Award for Desert Research," in his honor.

Professor El-Baz has received many national and international awards and has authored nearly 600 publications and presentations and a dozen books. Through his exceptional ability to communicate his research, Farouk El-Baz has touched and influenced an extraordinarily broad segment of the science community as well as the general public.

(2004 Recipient)

17th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Fakhri A. Bazzaz

Professor in Plant Physiological Ecology, Harvard University (deceased 2008)

A leading pioneer in plant physiological ecology, Harvard Professor Bazzaz dramatically improved scientific understanding of how species respond to disturbance in nature, how they adapt to it, share or compete for resources, and what aspects of the species biology are important in the process of regeneration. He was among the first to anticipate the significant impacts on plant communities from increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

A major force in the field of ecology for decades, Bazzaz is credited with over 300 publications, several critical reviews and six key books. With several groundbreaking publications beginning in 1979, he paved the way for a new scientific approach of integrating different levels of biological organization, and defined a new way to look at ecological systems.

(2004 Recipient)

16th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Charles Goldman

Professor of Limnology, Director, Tahoe Research Group, University of California, Davis.

Dr. Charles Goldman’s pioneering research has focused on the factors that affect the clarity of the world’s fresh water lakes. As director of the Tahoe Research Group for the University of California at Davis, Professor Goldman has documented the steady decline in clarity of Lake Tahoe’s legendary blue waters for more than forty years. His persistent efforts to attract state and federal attention on the issues threatening the lakes played a central role in the dramatic resurgence of Tahoe Basin research in the mid 1990s.

Professor Goldman's research of freshwater lakes has emphasized the biological, chemical and physical interactions between the surrounding watersheds and lakes. Particular emphasis has been on eutrophication of lakes, nutrient limiting factors, and the impact of climate and weather. He has also advanced the use and significance of long term data sets in environmental research, utilizing nearly four decades of research on Castle Lake and Lake Tahoe in California. The core of his research has been directed towards a better understanding of lake processes and measures to preserve the water quality of lakes, which has included seven research expedition to Lake Baikal in Russia.

(2003 Recipient)

15th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman

Professor of Geography and Environmental Engineering, Johns Hopkins University (deceased 2010)

Few scientists have influenced their field more profoundly than Professor M. Gordon "Reds" Wolman. Long before the first Earth Day, Dr. Woman began integrating the issues of land use, water quality, and the natural processes that shape the Earth’s surface into an enlightening environmental perspective. A Professor of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Wolman’s research has focused on the relative roles of human and natural forces in shaping the land and influencing water quality. His professional and policy interests have been fostered by field work and exposure to resource issues in the West and his work has provided the basis for current national environmental policy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Prof. Wolman received the American Geological Institute’s most prestigious award, the Ian Campbell Medal, in 1997, and the Geological Society of America’s highest award, the Penrose Medal, in 1992. He served as president of the society in 1984, and of the American Geophysical Union’s Hydrology Section from 1970 to 1972. He won the American Geophysical Union’s Robert Horton Award in 2000.

(2002 Recipient)

14th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. John H. Seinfeld

Louis E. Nohl Professor and former chair (dean) of the California Institute of Technology's Division of Engineering and Applied Science

In 1972, Prof. Seinfeld created the first computer model that could incorporate the incredibly complex variables that contribute to local air quality conditions. Today, every U.S. city uses the descendants of his model to describe and forecast potential air pollution threats and to design strategies to preserve air quality. Prof. Seinfeld continues to lead scientists and regulators on a variety of local and national challenges. His current interests range from the surface of the planet to the very edge of its atmospheric blanket, and encompass topics from ozone and acid rain to climate change and global warming. In 1982 at age 39, Prof. Seinfeld was one of the youngest person ever elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He has published more than 300 papers and four critically acclaimed books, including the textbook, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics: From Air Pollution to Climate Change, considered the basic worldwide reference on air pollution.

(2001 Recipient)

13th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Harold Mooney

Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology of Stanford Stanford

Biologist Harold A. Mooney, internationally recognized for his pioneering role in developing the field of plant physiological ecology. Mooney's research established new conceptual approaches for analyzing how plants and plant communities respond to their environment, and provided a direct method of understanding environmental change and the impacts of natural and human influences. In recent years Mooney has provided leadership to the global scientific community in providing scientific guidance in the formulation of environmental policies, particularly in the areas of biodiversity and global climate change.

(2000 Recipient)

12th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Wallace Broecker

Newberry Professor of Geology at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Dr. Broecker tied variations in the global transport of heat energy by great ocean currents to abrupt shifts of the Earth's climate in the past. His research has shown the susceptibility of this climate change mechanism to the influence of increasing greenhouse gases.

(1999 Recipient)

11th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Lynn Margulis

Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. (deceased 2010)

Dr. Margulis is internationally known for her research on the evolution of the small forms of life, including the role of bacteria in influencing and regulating biological processes and environmental conditions. She holds a prestigious Distinguished University Professorship on the Amherst campus in Massachusetts, and has been a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences since 1983.

(1998 Recipient)

10th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland

Bren Professor of Chemistry, University of California, Irvine (deceased 2012)

Atmospheric chemist whose 1974 discovery that CFCs were depleting the earth's protective ozone layer prompted adoption of the Montreal Protocol to ban production of these substances. His research has continued to contribute significantly in the areas of urban ozone pollution and the impact of methane and other green house gases on global climate.

(1997 Recipient)

9th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Hector F. DeLuca

Harry Steenbock Research Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pioneer and preeminent authority of the modern era of vitamin D research His pioneering research on vitamin D, especially his discovery and characterization of the vitamin D metabolites and the biochemical definition of the vitamin D endocrine system, has yielded effective new therapeutic agents for the treatment of several important diseases.

(1996 Recipient)

8th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Charles Elachi

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cal-Tech

Pivotal scientific leader in the development of spaceborneradar technologies that provide exceptional environmental and geologic information about the earth and other planets and moons in the solar system.

(1995 Recipient)

7th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. John N. Bahcall

Inst. for Advances Studies, Princeton, NJ (deceased 2005)

Astrophysicist who shepherded the Hubble Space Telescope project for more than two decades, and contributed fundamental advances in the understanding of neutrinos emitted from the core of stars. Dr. John Bahcall died on August 17, 2005 at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital. He was 70.

(1994 Recipient)

6th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Margaret Bryan Davis

University of Minnesota

Paleoecologist whose inovative analytical approach overturned scientific assumptions about how environments respond to climate change.

(1993 Recipient)

5th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Carl Djerassi

Stanford University (deceased 2015)

Achieved major advances in our understanding of hormones in animal biochemistry and developed the chemical base for the first oral contraceptive.

(1992 Recipient)

4th Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Benoit Mandelbrot

Thomas J. Watson Research Center, IBM (deceased 2010)

Introduced fractal geometry and "The Mandelbrot Set" to art, mathematics and science.

(1991 Recipient)

3rd Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. James A. Van Allen

University of Iowa (deceased 2006)

Discoverer of the "Van Allen Radiation Belt" surrounding the Earth and a pioneer in the use of unmanned probes for space exploration. Dr. James A. Van Allen died on August 9, 2006 of heart failure at the University of Iowa Hospital. He was 91.

(1990 Recipient)

2nd Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Dwight Billings

Duke University (deceased 1997)

A former Nevada professor who is regarded as the "father" of plant physiological ecology that is now a guiding principle for the study of ecological systems. Dr. Dwight Billings died in his home on January 4, 1997. He was 87.

(1989 Recipient)

1st Nevada Medal Recipient: Dr. Verner Suomi

University of Wisconsin (deceased 1995)

Developer of the "spin-scan" weather camera that provided the first satellite photos for TV weather and an extraordinary breakthrough in weather forecasting and analysis. Dr. Verner E. Suomi died after a long battle with heart disease on July 30, 1995, at University Hospital at the age of 79.

(1988 Recipient)


For information about the DRI Foundation or supporting innovative research at DRI, please contact:

Kristin Burgarello
(775) 673-7386


Desert Research Institute
2215 Raggio Parkway
Reno, NV 89512