The Conservation Governance Lab would like to welcome its newest Master’s student, Dan Morris! As an undergraduate, Dan was assisting MS student, Sabine Bailey, in her research on how policies are made regarding port expansion projects and their impacts on adjacent coral reefs. Dan’s assistance helped examine how different networks of stakeholders used strategic narratives to influence policy outcomes, in hopes to gain insight on how to better protect marine ecosystems in the future as other ports undergo expansion projects.
Dan is a Birmingham, AL native and graduated from Auburn University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. After graduating, Dan was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US State Air Force where he served as a Logistics Readiness Officer. During his time in the Air Force he specialized in Air Transportation and contingency planning. His first assignment took him to the island of Okinawa, Japan where he spent two years planning joint exercises and contingency operations for the Air Force Special Operations Command in the Pacific theater. This role allowed Dan to travel extensively around the Pacific where he worked closely with military leaders of allied nations, including Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore. While living in Japan, Dan gained valuable understanding in logistics plays in National defense policy and the importance of building strong relationships within the region. He also began to examine vast marine ecosystems of the South Pacific and spent most of his free time diving, surfing, sailing, and fishing around the beautiful Okinawan reefs.
He was next assigned to Osan Air Base in the Republic of Korea where he focused on command and control of aerial port operations for the Korean peninsula. During this time, Dan played a key role in the planning and execution of President Barack Obama’s first diplomatic visit to South Korea. He also spent an extensive amount of time leading a team of transportation specialists on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. This unique island is part of an overseas territory of the United Kingdom known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). Dan was fascinated by this remote island and spent many hours exploring the lagoon and waters surrounding the island.
Dan’s next adventure took him to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL where he served as bases Deployment and Distribution Flight Commander. In 2011, Dan was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he was a logistics advisor to the Afghan National Army. This was the most challenging and rewarding experience of his career, and Dan learned many valuable lessons in the importance of supply chain management and multinational collaboration.
After returning from Afghanistan, Dan was assigned to Aviano Air Base in Northern Italy where he was selected as the Director of Operations for the small air terminal on the base. From loading and unloading large cargo aircraft to preparing the base for readiness inspections, there was never a dull moment in Italy. Dan also spent 6 months in Kuwait in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2016 as a logistics planner. He was lucky enough to live at the base of Dolomite Mountains during his 4 years in Italy, where he spent countless hours skiing and exploring the trails with his German Shepherd Nala.
In 2017 Dan decided to separate from the Air Force in order to pursue other career goals and broaden his horizons. From working to relocate honey bees from residential homes to becoming a certified yoga instructor, Dan was in constant motion. With a more consistent schedule, Dan was able to travel extensively during this time and spent a lot of time exploring the amazing national parks of the American west. He also began volunteering with Team Rubicon, an international non-governmental organization which enlists first responders and military veterans to aid in disaster recovery operations and help disaster victims. In 2019, he was deployed with Team Rubicon to Abaco Island, in the Bahamas immediately following Hurricane Dorian. There he witnessed first hand the devastating effects this extremely powerful hurricane had on the small island community. While heartbreaking, he was inspired by the outpouring of support for the island and the fighting spirit of the survivors. He will never forget how important service and community can be during the mayhem of a catastrophic natural disaster.
Eventually Dan took a role working in Houston, TX for an oil and gas research and development corporation. It was then that Dan realized his true calling was in the natural world. He wanted to be outdoors as much as he could. He found that any day spent outside was always better than being tied to a desk so he decided to pursue a job that gave him that opportunity. After careful research and consideration he decided to return to Auburn University to pursue a degree in Natural Resources Management in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.
Dan loves to help veterans and enjoys sharing his experiences and insights with others who are in the process of transitioning to civilian life. Dan is also an avid fisherman, and is a strong advocate for coastal and marine ecosystem conservation. When he isn’t studying or fishing, you can find Dan running, skiing, golfing, hiking, camping, or anything else that involves being outside!