• Fluent in Spanish.
  • From Astoria, Ore.
  • Solving environmental problems.
  • A cook.
  • A track and cross country team member.
  • Well-rounded.

Jonnie Dunne puts his environmental science courses into practice through his research and extracurriculars.


Jonnie is one of the founders of Zena Farm, a student-run project that provides food to Willamette’s Goudy Commons.

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Passionate about the Environment

Jonnie Dunne has taken his environmental studies in new directions during his time at Willamette.

Academic Life

Jonnie Dunne already knew he wanted to study environmental science when he came to Willamette. But while he was here, he also discovered two other interests: Spanish and sustainable agriculture.

Thinking he would knock out his language requirement with a few Spanish classes and then move on, Jonnie changed his mind after spending a semester in Ecuador, where he volunteered as a middle-school teacher, took courses and became fluent in Spanish.

"I heard about the volunteer opportunity through Willamette's environmental science listserv. There's no better place to study entomology and ecology than in Ecuador, because the landscape is so diverse."

The summer after his junior year, he participated in Willamette's Science Collaborative Research Program with Professor Kimberlee Chambers, whose research focuses on local and sustainable agriculture another new field for Jonnie.

"Collaborating with Professor Chambers and several other students was one of my best experiences at Willamette. I interviewed local grocers about how they define local food, and wrote a paper that is going to be published. I gained insight into the process of designing research methods, compiling the results and writing a conclusion." 

Why I Value Willamette

"I'll never forget my first day of my College Colloquium class, ‘Maps' with Professor Karen Arabas. The title of the course didn't sound very interesting, but after that first class, I changed my mind. Every time I look at a map now, I realize it isn't just a piece of paper with countries and capitals on it — it represents a series of decisions by map-makers about what they want or don't want to include.

"Being at Willamette has taught me to examine everything critically, and I use this view as I study environmental issues. Taking classes in history, politics, chemistry, economics, biology and geology has allowed me to consider environmental problems from many different viewpoints."

The Future

Jonnie has an internship preparing forestry data for the Nature Conservancy, another opportunity he found through Willamette's environmental science listserv.

He knows the experience will help him prepare for a future in addressing environmental issues. No matter where he ends up, he hopes to continue with the learning he began at Willamette.

"I want to work towards solving environmental problems, either directly through activism or consulting, or indirectly through academia."

Beyond the Classroom

Jonnie applied his new interest in sustainable agriculture to his extracurricular activities as well. He is one of the founders of Zena Farm, a student-run project located at the university's Zena Forest research station near Salem.

He has spent almost every weekend caring for the farm — weeding, moving hay, shoveling compost and planting vegetables. Much of the food goes to Willamette's Goudy Commons.

"By helping to plan the farm — and making decisions on how to control pests, water flow and nutrients — I've been able to put a lot of the ideas I learned in ecology into practice."

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