Kelly Heber

I am Kelly Heber Dunning, a PhD Student focused on natural resource management in the MIT Science Impact Collaborative and an advisee of Professor Lawrence Susskind. An MIT Presidential Fellow , Policy and Environmental Governance Fellow, Carroll Wilson Awardee, and a social scientist by training, my research focuses on public policy and the socio-economic dimensions of coastal natural resources. Being at MIT has allowed to me leverage a world class setting for training in the natural sciences with innovative practitioners in the realms of public policy, economics, and public dispute resolution.

The theory and practice of stakeholder participation in science-intensive natural resource management policy guides my inquiry. Specifically I analyze ecosystem services and theorize natural resources as complex socio-ecological systems. I am writing my dissertation on collaborative adaptive coral reef management institutions in Indonesian and Malaysian villages under the close supervision of an interdisciplinary committee.

My major research questions are:

1. What specific institutions predict healthier coastal ecosystems?
2. How are co-managed institutions linked to economic development namely in coastal ecosystem service delivery?

I have transdisciplinary interests that include economic development potential in communities that depend on coastal resources, and innovative ways to link environmental policy and institutions to positive ecological, social, and economic outcomes. Well managed natural resources such as coral reefs, estuaries, sea grass, mangroves, and coastal wetlands deliver many socio-economic benefits to coastal communities. I am interested in public policies, environmental regulations, and collaborative governance institutions that ensure natural resources are well-managed.

I am a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute Marine Policy Center through the WHOI Guest Student Program. I am supervised by Professor Porter Hoagland where I work on an NSF Funded Coastal SEES Project on the economic valuation of ecosystem services in large urban estuaries, specifically the Hudson River. There we are using large scale biophysical models coupled with economic models to measure the impacts of port siting.

I serve as a teaching assistant for a variety of courses including Environmental Policy and Planning, Statistical Research Design, Participatory Action Research Methods, and the department’s Malaysia Practicum on sustainable development. As part of this practicum, I take a sub-group of students into the field to examine coastal resource management issues in Malaysian communities who depend on mangroves, mudflats, and nearshore fisheries for their economic well-being.

This coming spring 2015 I have created a new course and will instruct the Regional Ocean and Coastal Zone Management Planning Working Group in MIT’s Environmental Policy and Planning cluster. It focuses on integrated coastal zone management for a range of uses ranging from oil and gas facilities, to fisheries and aquaculture, to offshore wind. We also tackle issues of stakeholder participation, resilience, ecosystem-based management, and domestic/international oceans and coastal governance. A link to the class description can be found here: