Joel Dunn, President & CEO
Joel Dunn is President and CEO of Chesapeake Conservancy, a non-profit organization based in Annapolis, MD dedicated to protecting Chesapeake landscapes that are vital to the health of the Bay and its cultural heritage. With a regional population approaching 18 million and growing and with tens of thousands of acres of open space vanishing each year, the Conservancy strives to restore the health of the Bay and its rivers by preserving working farms and forests and protecting the region’s rich history and character, ensuring a brighter future for the Bay for generations to come.
Dunn leads the Conservancy’s efforts to strengthen the connection between people and the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a way to promote a greater appreciation for the need to conserve the landscapes and special places that sustain the Chesapeake’s unique natural and cultural resources. Under Dunn’s leadership, the Conservancy has focused on using technology to practice precision conservation and building successful partnerships with federal, state and local agencies, private foundations, and corporations to advance conservation.
Prior to joining the Conservancy, Dunn spearheaded government relations and project management in the Chesapeake region for The Conservation Fund. His work helped establish protection for National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and National Trails, including the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Dunn has also worked on Capitol Hill and in conservation science.
Dunn earned a Master of Public Policy from the Terry Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and a Master of Environmental Management from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences from Duke University, where he was a Doris Duke Conservation Fellow. He holds a Bachelor of Science from The Evergreen State College. In 2019, Dunn completed Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Course, “Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management.”
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan named Dunn “Chesapeake Bay Ambassador” in 2020. This is one of the highest and most prestigious awards that the state confers upon citizens who are active leaders in the fight for the Chesapeake Bay. In 2010, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment gave him their Rising Star Award for his work in conservation.
In 2021, he was named an “Outdoor Recreation Ambassador” for the state of Maryland by Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz and Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. Dunn is a former member of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail Advisory Council, co-chair of the Chesapeake Conservation Partnership, and serves on the Maryland Joint Study Committee for Program Open Space. In 2018, Dunn was appointed to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Maryland Outdoor Recreation Economic Commission and the Maryland Department of Transportation Attainment Report Advisory Committee (ARAC). Dunn was a Climate Leader with The Climate Change Reality Project. Dunn is currently serving as vice chair of Partners for Open Space, and served as chairman for two years (2012,2013).
Dunn served on the Severn River Commission and as a member of the Annapolis Conservancy Board (2008-2011). Additionally, Dunn was a member of the Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Mitigation Working Group for Maryland’s Commission on Climate Change (2007) and served on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Virginia Outdoors Plan (2006).
In 2009, Dunn received proclamations from the State of Maryland for his work as a member of the Maryland Climate Commission, and the City of Annapolis for his work as a member of the IDEA Team to establish more effective, efficient and transparent city government. Dunn has served as an election judge in Anne Arundel County.
Dunn was co-editor of A Sustainable Chesapeake: Better Models for Conservation. He has written numerous opinion editorials for newspapers in the Chesapeake region, served as a panelist for Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Bay Summit and Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) OceansLIVE.
He lives in Annapolis, Maryland with his wife and two daughters.