UNLV’s most distinguished research award — the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award — was created in 2001 with two goals in mind: honoring the U.S. senator who has been an outstanding supporter of UNLV, and recognizing faculty who have performed research that is both highly regarded and responsive to the needs of the community and state. The 2003 recipient of this honor, Stanley Smith, represents the exceptional research and scholarship being performed at UNLV.
Stanley D. Smith—Professor, Department of Biological Sciences; Coordinator of UNLV’s Arid Lands Macrotheme
Arid land ecosystems cover up to 30 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and affect nearly 20 percent of the world’s population. These regions are growing faster than any other part of the United States. A lack of water and low plant productivity make arid lands among the most environmentally sensitive areas on the globe, and with climatic change and encroaching population centers, they are also becoming increasingly threatened.
Of critical importance to the world’s ecological future is discovering how the Earth’s ecosystems will respond to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations as well as other global-change phenomena expected to occur in the next century. Biological sciences professor Stanley Smith has spent the last 20 years at UNLV researching the unique plant life of Nevada’s deserts in order to help society better prepare for the impending effects of changing climate conditions.
“Global climate change is of imminent concern worldwide, and I am gratified to contribute to a greater understanding of its impact on arid regions, which are increasing in importance to the human enterprise,” Smith says.
Currently, Smith is working as UNLV’s lead principal investigator with the Nevada Desert Research Center (NDRC), located at the Nevada Test Site some 65 miles north of Las Vegas. The NDRC is an EPSCoR-supported collaborative effort between UNLV, the Desert Research Institute, and the University of Nevada, Reno; it includes two major research units: the Nevada Desert Free-Air CO2 Enrichment Facility and the Mojave Global Change Facility. The NDRC has earned a reputation as a leading contributor to both the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s global change research programs.
Recognized as an international authority on the ecology of the Mojave Desert, Smith has produced a body of work that includes more than 90 publications in the fields of plant water use, photosynthesis, high temperature responses, invasive species, and global change. He has several recent publications in Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. In addition, he serves on the editorial boards of Ecology and Ecological Monographs and is the author of a book on the physiological ecology of North American desert plants.
Smith received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology from New Mexico State University and his doctorate in ecology from Arizona State University. He was awarded a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at UCLA. He has also been a visiting fellow at the Australian National University in Canberra . Since 1998, Smith has brought more than $5 million in research funding to UNLV and has directed the work of five Ph.D. candidates, eight master’s degree students, and seven postdoctoral associates.
About Senator Harry Reid
The highest-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate and Nevada’s senior senator, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has worked actively through the years to support many of UNLV’s major research projects. He has been instrumental in identifying significant resources to allow faculty to engage in a variety of investigative studies, particularly those related to the efficient use of alternative energy and the management of spent nuclear fuel. His support of the scholarly pursuits of UNLV faculty, especially as they relate to environmental studies, has been substantive. The Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies and the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award have been named to honor his long-standing commitment to the university. Plans are also under way to develop the Harry Reid UNLV Research and Technology Park, expected to begin construction soon.