DURHAM, N.C. – Joel Dunn, a 2004 Master of Environmental Management (MEM) graduate of the Nicholas School of the Environment, has been named a Chesapeake Bay Ambassador by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

The honor, one of the highest civilian honors bestowed by the state, recognizes Dunn, who is president and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy, for his decades-long leadership in protecting and restoring natural and cultural resources in the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed.

“Joel’s efforts have bettered the community and the state,” said Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who presented the honor to Dunn on behalf of Hogan at a Dec. 2 ceremony.

“You hear me talk about partnerships a lot, and that is because government alone cannot achieve all of the goals that we have for our environment in Maryland. One of our strongest partnerships is with the Chesapeake Conservancy under Joel’s leadership,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who also took part in the presentation.

As president of the nonprofit Conservancy, Dunn has spearheaded efforts to increase public access to the bay and its tributaries and restore their health through public-private partnerships and the use of cutting-edge technology – two hallmarks of his leadership style.

Major conservation projects completed, in Maryland alone, over the last decade include expansions of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and Quiet Waters Park, and the establishment of the Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park. Ongoing projects in the state include the protection and restoration of more than 2,700 acres in the Nanticoke River watershed, home to more rare plants than any other landscape on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Under Dunn’s leadership, the Conservancy has embraced the global call to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 and has set its own goal of protecting 30% of the Chesapeake Bay watershed by that date. It’s also working with a coalition of partners to create a Chesapeake National Recreation Area that would be an official unit of the National Park Service.

In addition to his MEM degree from the Nicholas School, Dunn holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and is also an alumnus of the Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship program.

“I am grateful and humbled by this recognition,” he said of being named a Chesapeake Bay Ambassador, noting that it’s an honor he shares with his staff and board at the Conservancy, his family, and all the people and organizations that have partnered with the Conservancy over the years

“Conservation is a worthy endeavor that takes years of relentless effort, even decades sometimes, to succeed,” he said. “It’s not possible without a whole team of committed people.”