Friday seminar at Harte Research Institute

This Friday I will be giving the Friday research seminar at the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies. My talk will cover coral reef management in tropical developing countries with insights for HRI Cuba program. The flier is below:Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 11.43.07 AM



Read my new book Managing Coral Reefs: An Ecological and Institutional Analysis of Ecosystem Services in Southeast Asia

After many years of work, my first book was just published this last month by Anthem Press in London. You can buy a copy here.  If you’d prefer to read it online, I have uploaded the Latex file (which is not as nice as the typeset file in the book itself, but the text is nearly identical). Enjoy.

Book here: Dunning 2018

New book on coral reef management out July 2018!

It’s been a while since I last updated my page, but it is because I have been working long and hard on my new book: Managing Coral Reefs: An Ecological and Institutional Analysis of Ecosystem Services in Southeast Asia.

The book was a result of 3 years of fieldwork, much of it funded through a U.S. Fulbright Award. I spent time in 7 Indonesian and Malaysian communities surveying their reefs using ecological methods and their citizens using social science methods. The result was an interdisciplinary look at what it means to implement conservation policy. I will be writing more on the book and posting some excepts in the coming weeks, for now, check it out on Amazon.


Link to my Amazon page here:

New publication: Missing the trees for the forest? Bottom-up policy implementation and adaptive management in the US natural resource bureaucracy

Abstract: For decades, natural resource agencies in the United States have attempted to restore ecosystems using adaptive management, a process that emphasizes experimental learning to reduce uncertainty. Most studies show that it rarely occurs in practice and explain implementation failures as organizational issues. This study draws on policy implementation theory to suggest that behaviors and attitudes of individuals may better explain implementation gaps. This comparative case study finds differences between experts implementing adaptive management in the Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Geological Survey. These include differences in attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors aimed at promoting individual autonomy, performance standards, and defending individual interests on the job. Policy implications are twofold: first, that individual behaviors impact adaptive management implementation and intrinsic motivation to perform such functions. Second, regardless of agency, experts view their work as a social good. This suggests that a devolved planning process may remedy implementation obstacles.
Keywords: adaptive management; ecological restorations; policy implementation; bureaucracy

PDF Dunning 2017

Media coverage on my fieldwork: impacts of land reclamation on mangroves and coastal Balinese ecosystems

Link to article:

“Kelly Heber Dunning, a doctoral candidate in natural resource management at MIT, has worked with fishing communities in the area and shares some of the same concerns. She told VICE News that intertidal habitats such as Benoa have huge value, as they “buffer human settlements from erosion, provide habitats for juvenile fish that grow up to be commercially valuable species, purify water with roots that collect and trap detritus, cycle nutrients (from sewage), and so on.”

Going further, Dunning noted: “When you take away ecosystem services from fishermen in order to build a luxury destination for visitors, there must be long-term compensation for the lost value of the services this will cause.” Across Indonesia, top-down development frequently outpaces the ability of communities to have a real say in their future. But it’s clear that this generation of Indonesians can and will stand up to those in power. From the Sumatran countryside to the urban metropolis of Jakarta, disputes over land rights have brought legal action and clashes with police. “

Media coverage on my research: MIT Environmental Policy and Planning reviews my work on “Implementing the International Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in South East Asia”

“International treaties can exert pressure on national governments to pay attention to certain policy goals, how they choose to implement these goals is up to them. Kelly Heber Dunning (PhD ’16) examines the challenges facing countries that have signed on to the International Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Using a comparative case study of relatively similar (endangered) coral reefs in Indonesia and Malaysia, Kelly looks at the results in the two countries. She discovers (using a variety of underwater monitoring strategies and detailed surveys and interviews) that Indonesia’s co-managed system (government and villages) is more effective than Malaysia’s uses a top-down network of federally managed Marine Parks. Her findings go beyond what the research community has been able to document thus far regarding the advantages and disadvantages of alternative common pool resource management strategies.

If you’d like to learn more about Indonesia’s model and the likelihood it can be replicated, you can download Kelly’s dissertation here.”