Dr. Kelly Heber Dunning

Fieldwork in Amed, Indonesia

About me

My name is Dr. Kelly Heber Dunning. I am a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Early Career Fellow, a National Center for Atmospheric Research Early Career Innovator, and an MIT Presidential Fellow. I hold my PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an MSc from Oxford University Christ Church College, and a BA from the University of Florida. I am a Fulbright and Teach for America Alumnus deeply committed to partnering with marginalized communities and dismantling inequity.

I am an Associate Professor at Auburn University College of Forestry, Wildlife, and Environment with over 10 years of experience working on environmental policy problems in 20 countries all over the world. My lab is the Conservation Governance Lab, awarded the 2023 Auburn University Spirit of Sustainability Award for our conservation impact at Auburn University. I teach classes at Auburn in Conservation Policy, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and Wildlife, and Research Methods in Human Dimensions of Wildlife. I have also taught classes at MIT.

Our research program focuses on how public policy can protect ecosystems in the face of immense challenges like climate change and the extinction crisis. We focus on partnering with marginalized communities facing environmental problems. Our research is a way to help build capacity to protect ecosystems and livelihoods. I have a brand new book coming out in May 2023 co-authored with my graduate students titled Democratic Management of an Ecosystem Under Threat: The People’s Reefs. My Google Scholar page is here. Publications and PDFs here.

Book: Democratic Management of an Ecosystem Under Threat: The People’s Reefs

My newest book on coral reef management is due out in May 2023. You can purchase it with the link below. It looks at how every day people, volunteers, citizens, and NGOs can unite and stop multi-national corporations from violating laws and destroying the reefs that we have left. Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, we look at case studies from Florida and the Cayman Islands where people participating made a difference in reef conservation.

Book: Managing Coral Reefs

My first book on coral reef management was published in 2018. You can purchase it with the link below. It compares coral reef management in marine protected areas (MPAs) in Indonesia and Malaysia. It examines how community based MPA management compared to top-down, federal management. Social, economic, and ecological data is used to determine that community based MPA management results in more resilient reefs and communities.

Kelly Dunning

Students looking to apply for a position in my lab please send a CV, and a 1-2 page statement on your background and interests.


Twitter: @DrKellyHDunning