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Conservation Governance Lab

Group ~ Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

The Conservation Governance Lab (CGL) in the College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment specializes in conservation policy, increasing representation of historically marginalized communities in natural resource management, and ecosystem sustainability. The CGL trains Auburn graduates and undergraduates to be the next generation of sustainability leaders in the fields of wildlife and natural resources. 

The director of the lab, Kelly Dunning, mentors graduate students for careers in public service. Her lab members and students have received the National Academies of Science Science Policy Fellowship and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Digital Coasts Fellowship, prominent awards that recognize sustainability leaders in the early phase of their careers. 

Students are managing projects focused on wildlife disease, climate change adaptation on the Alabama coast, climate change adaptation in federal marine sanctuaries, and avoiding angler conflict with coastal wildlife. Alumni of the CGL have gone on to work in the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on wetland sustainability, NOAA on coral reef management, the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources on coastal resilience, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on international ocean policy.  

CGL’s public engagement work means spending extensive amounts of time in communities that depend on the natural resources that the lab studies. For example, while working on a proposed port infrastructure project in George Town Harbour in the Cayman Islands, Kelly provided expert witness testimony and speaking sessions at public meetings to teach the public how dredging and expansion of the port will negatively impact the coral reefs of the Cayman Islands, benefitting a few multinational cruise companies and harming local populations that, for generations, have snorkeled on these coral reefs with their children. 

Image of those in the lab with their award