Humboldt State University

People on the Ground: Faculty Profiles

Jeff Dunk
Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences

Students in Jeff Dunk's courses will discover many things about how the world works. Chief among them: the planet is not a limitless supply of resources and that city-dwelling kid sitting across the aisle might be as big a nature lover as someone born at the base Half Dome.

Whether the class is an overview of the Natural Resources discipline (Natural Resources Conservation 105), an upper division general education course that looks at the interplay between our inner-selves and our environments (Inscape/Landscape; Natural Resources 400), or a Freshman Interest Group course that Dunk teaches, learning about the world from new and diverse perspectives is job one.

In Dunk's NR 105, many students get their first taste of how the world really works.

"The class is kind of the state of the world as far as natural resources go. It has a long reach and I think a lot of students end up thinking ‘how could I not have known this stuff?'"

As it turns out, this "stuff" is pretty important: how much food is being produced per person, how many people are on the planet, what's the reality of climate change, what's happing to our planet's life support system? These might be basic concepts to an ecologist, but can be eye opening for a student who's never been exposed to these sorts of cold, hard facts.

The class, unsurprisingly, ends up changing a lot of students notions about how the world's systems function.

"One of the things students tell me is ‘it's made me look at my own life, when I go to the store or when I go to put on a shirt, I wonder where does it come from? What were the processes that helped develop it? Was it made in a way that I hope it would be,'" Dunk says.

Looking at the world through the eyes of an ecologist, historian, social scientist and natural resources professional, Dunk hopes to expose the hidden truths and consequences of our modern life by using a kaleidoscope of disciplines.

In Inscape & Landscape, an upper division general education course, Dunk's students are challenged to consider their own life paths as well as those of others.

"In the same class students are exposed to 40 or 50 other perspectives. That's when they say ‘I was raised by two rangers at Yosemite and went to school with 13 other people, that's why I'm the nature lover.' But one of their classmates, born in Tokyo on the 24th floor of an apartment building and whose primary interaction with nature was with the pigeons that landed on his balcony, comes to the same place in terms of values.

"It's self discovery but also challenging your personal biography. Most classes, you get to the right answer. This class takes people from confidently knowing who they are and why they're like how they are, to questioning it a little more," Dunk says.