Scientist housing in works |

Scientist housing in works

Emily Aughinbaugh

Sierra Nevada College is developing a program to house scientists from the Desert Research Institute in Reno.

The Tahoe Basin Environmental Science and Policy Center is only in the early programming stages, however college officials are excited by what the project may contribute to the school.

“This collaboration will be a great new day for bringing together environmental science and public policy here in the Tahoe Basin,” said Sierra Nevada President James Ash. “We are delighted to be the host site for this new center at our lake campus.”

Sierra Nevada Vice President William Stepp said the project will eventually need a state-of-the-art laboratory, but until programming is identified and money raised, the Desert Research Institute scientists will hold shop in existing structures.

DRI is a nonprofit agency that encompasses nearly 400 full- and part-time scientists, technicians and support staff who conduct 140 research projects annually.

John Doherty, DRI public information officer, said the agency has been trying for years to find a home for researchers who study the basin’s environment.

With this program, Sierra Nevada’s undergraduate students will be able to learn from DRI scientists and policy analysts from the nonprofit group RAND.

RAND’s role in the program is to improve environmental policy and decision-making through research and analysis.

“The center should greatly boost the efforts already under way by Sierra Nevada College, DRI, the University Nevada Reno and the University of California Davis,” said DRI President Stephen Wells. “Most important, we hope the center would create a strong link between the environmental research efforts in the Tahoe Basin and the development and implementation of policy to preserve the area’s ecological health.”

Juan Palma, executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which makes environmental policy for the basin, said the program is a good idea as long as researchers stick to the science.

“I think this partnership will be an asset to Lake Tahoe,” Palma said. “What I would like to see is us coming to them with a list of questions and saying, ‘Could you help us answer these?’ They can go do the research, and with the information, we can then go back and figure out the policy on our end. That’s the relationship I see with this group.”

Stepp said the college will probably start marketing the research and policy center within the next year. He did not know its cost.

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