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Lab Members

Principal Investigator

Dr. Kelly Dunning

Principal Investigator

Kelly holds a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an MSc from Oxford, a BA from the University of Florida, and is a Fulbright and Teach for America Alum. She is an assistant professor at Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife with over 10 years of experience working on environmental policy problems all over the world. Her lab is the Conservation Governance Lab. The research program focuses on biodiversity conservation policy with an eye to the complicated story behind environmental policy-making and implementation (or “governance”). Her Google Scholar page is here.


PhD Students

Catherine Cummings

PhD Student

Catherine grew up in upstate New York, which gave her endless opportunities to be outside engaging with countless wildlife species and their habitats, right in her backyard. She graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 2018 with a BS in Cell and Molecular Biology and a minor in studio art. She is a recent graduate from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where she received a MS in Animals and Public Policy, which solidified her love for public policy. Catherine is particularly interested in human-wildlife conflict and how stakeholders play different roles in developing solutions. She aspires to build a career in policy analyses for federal or state agencies as well as serve as an advocate for effective and sustainable mitigation solutions. Catherine’s PhD research will focus on the different state level policy responses to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in free ranging white-tailed deer across the United States as well as how agency communications and public perceptions differ depending on how long CWD has been present in the herd.

Read more about her research and prior experience as a Woods Hole Research Assistant studying attitudes towards seals and sharks in Cape Cod, MA here!



Greg Johnson

PhD Student

Greg holds a BA and MPA from Indiana University. His MPA work focused on public policy analysis with research projects that focused on the opioid epidemic in Southern Indiana and serving as a consultant to a new, community-minded non-profit, also in Southern Indiana. Greg is a 12-year veteran of the Indiana Army National Guard and has been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013. He is interested in environmental conservation as it relates to the Department of Defense and how the DoD, as the nation’s largest employer, can be a steward of the land it uses. Greg’s PhD research is focused on how climate change has impacted the Gulf of Mexico and how stakeholders in the region balance the need to preserve and protect their ecological landscape and support local economies largely centered around tourism and agriculture. Greg aspires to build a career that allows him to continue public service once completely out of uniform.

Read and learn more about Greg here!


Master’s Students

Dan Morris

Master’s Student

Dan was born and raised in Birmingham, AL.  He received a BA in Political Science from Auburn University in 2007 before joining the United States Air Force as a Logistics Readiness Officer.  During his 10 years in the military, Dan had the opportunity to travel the world and live in many interesting places, including Japan, Korea, and Italy.  He is currently a Natural Resources Management student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences.  Dan has a burning fascination with the natural world and enjoys spending his free time outdoors pursuing his other passions fishing, hiking, camping, skiing, golfing, and running. After having worked with Sabine for two semesters in 2021, Dan is now a Master’s student in the Conservation Governance Lab.

Read more about his journey here.

Master’s of Natural Resource Students

Dani Oates

MNR Student

Dani grew up in Slapout, AL, a small farming town in south-central Alabama. She graduated from Auburn University with a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management. During her undergraduate studies, she had the opportunity to participate in a variety of field experiments and research projects, including assisting with a population estimate via game camera surveys on Mbuzuli Game Reserve in Eswatini. Her time in Eswatini brought to light a new aspect of human-wildlife conflict within wildlife management. After taking Dr. Dunning’s Conservation Planning Course, Dani’s passion of navigating human-wildlife dynamics was solidified for her. Currently, Dani is attending Auburn University pursuing a non-thesis Masters in Natural Resources. In her future career, Dani hopes to follow a path of not only managing wildlife populations, but also helping people better understand conservation and working to minimize human-wildlife conflicts. In her free time, Dani can be found hiking with her two dogs, Lettie and Atlas, horseback riding, or birding!

To see the projects Dani is working on click here!

Isabelle Barnes

MNR Student

Isabelle was born and raised in Madison, Alabama. She graduated from The University in Alabama in Huntsville with a BS in Earth System Science, and a concentration in Human Dimensions and Societal Impacts. While at UAH, Isabelle enjoyed being on the volleyball team, and her classes that explored human-environment interactions. Since then, she has spent a summer as an AmeriCorps member in North Carolina on a trail crew, restoring and increasing sustainability on popular hiking trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway. This experience further instilled a passion in her to appreciate and care for the natural world, and figuring out how we as humans can best do this. Most recently she worked as a field technician on a forest dynamics plot through Alabama A&M. She is attending Auburn to pursue her non-thesis Masters in Natural Resources, and is very excited for the knowledge and skills she will obtain to put towards a career possibly in natural resource management, environmental consulting, or community planning.

Learn more about her experience with AmeriCorps here!


Aaron Evans

MNR Student

Aaron hails from a small town called York, AL. Being a first-generation graduate with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science, nature played a key part in his upbringing. During his undergraduate studies, he partook in a range of research subjects. These included studying environmental impacts of riffles and pools in aquatic systems and point and non-point source pollution in Alabama. Aaron has also taken an interest botany, where he examined the effects of plant microbiomes and the historical distribution of specific tree species. He’s even co-authored a field guide for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Aaron is part of the Alabama National Guard and wants to use his experiences, current and future, to protect public services from overuse and over exploitation. He is eager to learn more about nature, public policy, and what he has left to explore.


Veronica “Ronni” Rudolphi

MNR Student

Ronni was born and raised in Moss Point, a small town on the bayous of Southeast Mississippi.  She received a BS in Animal and Dairy Science (pre-vet) from Mississippi State University with the intention of applying to MSU’s vet school.  However, after marrying a member of the US Air Force, she began moving around the world as a military spouse. Fifteen years and four children later, she decided to act on her passion for nature and its preservation by enrolling in Auburn’s non-thesis Masters in Natural Resources program.  She is simultaneously working on a certificate in Restoration Ecology and is hoping to soon gain technical experience in the field with a federal agency.

Read more about her journey here.


Undergraduate Research Assistants

Madeleine Park

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Madeleine grew up in Dallas, Tx, and has had a driven and lively passion for global animal conservation ever since she can remember. Her ambition to travel and learn more about various cultures and environments has motivated her to pursue a career in which she can make a positive impact on our environment and its species. Madeleine will be working with Masters’s student Daniel Morris and Dr. Kelly Dunning in research based on coral reef management and governance. Read more about Madeleine HERE

Trinity Russo

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Trinity is a Communications undergraduate with a double minor in Nature Based Recreation and Asian Studies. She is the founder of the Fridays For Future chapter in Auburn and uses her communication skills to discuss the effects of climate change with whoever will listen. As Vice President of Feminists at Auburn, member of Generation Action, and TA for Dr. Tingting Wang, Trinity spends most of her time engaging with the Auburn community and encouraging others to pursue knowledge in the effects of climate change and the battle for human rights. After studying abroad in Taiwan for a summer, she plans to use her knowledge of the Chinese language and of Taiwanese culture to collect data about how certain island countries in Asia work against climate change and manage their marine protected areas. 

Reese Stogner

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Reese is a member of Auburn University’s Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society and The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. He is a two-time recipient of the Dan Moultrie Endowed Scholarship Award. He volunteers during the darting season at the Auburn University Deer Lab to assist with data collection for a reproductive study in white-tailed deer. Reese will be working with PhD student Catherine Cummings on research that focuses on the different state level policy responses to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and how agency communications and public perceptions differ depending on how long the disease has been present in the deer herd of each state.

To read more about Reese click here

Caroline Ward

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Caroline was named a 2022 Auburn Undergraduate Research Fellow, one of the most prestigious awards offered from Auburn University. The Fellowship enables top undergraduates learn how to conduct research in Auburn University Labs. Caroline will be working with Masters student Thomas Moorman on research which examines how stakeholders enact wildlife conservation policy in Subsaharan African and how national parks function as conservation tools in Southern Africa.

To read more about Caroline click here!

Lab Alumni

To view those who have graduated from Auburn University and the Conservation Governance Lab please click HERE!

To find out what our lab alumni are up to now click HERE!