David A. Sonnenfeld, Ph.D.
(Incorporating material from an article by Lorie
David Sonnenfeld is currently Professor of Sociology and Environmental Policy, Department of Environmental Studies, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), in Syracuse, New York; and Editor-in-Chief, Society & Natural Resources, official journal of the International Association for Society and Natural Resources. He is also a Research Associate and periodic Guest Professor with the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands; and an Affiliate Faculty, Department of Sociology, Maxwell School for Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. He joined ESF's faculty in 2007; previously he was with the Department of Community and Rural Sociology, Washington State University.
David obtained his Ph.D. in Sociology in 1996, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where his studies focused on Environmental Sociology, the Sociology of Development (Southeast Asia), and Historical and Field Research Methods. A series of serendipitous events led him to his dissertation topic, a comparative study of social movements' influence on the adoption of new, environmental technologies in the pulp and paper industries of Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
In the 1970s, after completing his undergraduate degree as an Independent Scholar in the Honors College at the University of Oregon, David chose to explore first-hand some aspects of life which had been largely unknown to him as a young, fast-tracked scholar. He worked for several years as a laborer/ machine operator, including in Oregon's forest products industry. This experience not only was "expanding" at the time, but also gave him valuable insights in later research. Forest policy issues -- logging of "old growth" redwoods -- remained highly controversial in California as David resumed academic pursuits in the late 1980s, providing further impetus for forest industry related research. As an Intercampus Exchange Student in the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley in 1991, David was fortunate to link up with a network of scholars studying Indonesian forestry issues, beginning his foray into the study of social and environmental transformation in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Upon selecting a focus for his doctoral research, David was very successful raising funds to carry it out. Support for his dissertation research was received from the Fulbright Program, the UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and the Switzer Foundation Environmental Program. In 1993-94, he was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, from where he based his field research on adoption of environmental technologies by pulp and paper firms in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
His family background also has played a role in shaping David's research interests, giving him insights into human-environment interactions, and forest and environmental policy. His father, the late Joseph Sonnenfeld, was a behavioral geographer at Texas A&M University. His brother, William Sonnenfeld, with degrees in forestry and business, is a forest industry analyst, currently working with Brookfield Asset Management, Inc., based in Toronto.
David finds collaborative, multi-disciplinary research rewarding and productive -- all features of the rich, interdisciplinary & collegial culture in Syracuse. He enjoys sharing results and observations with people in the field, and believes that academics from advanced industrial countries, who are privileged in their access to information and other resources, have a responsibility to share knowledge with people around the world. David returned to the University of California at Berkeley, in 1998-2000, as S. V. Ciriacy-Wantrup Visiting Scholar. While there, he was a Research Fellow at the Institute of International Studies and a Visiting Professor at the Energy and Resources Group. In 2003-04, and again in 2012, David was a WIMEK Fellow with the Environmental Policy Group at Wageningen University. He continues to work actively with colleagues in Asia, Europe, and elsewhere around the world. In addition to his international activities, David tries to stay abreast of important social and environmental dynamics at 'home'. In upstate New York, this includes social and economic as well as environmental dimensions of sustainability, deterioration and 'greening' of social infrastructure, conservation and preservation of the natural environment, transboundary environmental issues, and more.
Even with his scholarly engagements, David tries to find time to experience the out-of-doors. He has been known to bring along his camera, which he enjoys using in landscape and industrial photography, and as a documentary tool in his work. As a youth, David played bassoon in the Newark, Delaware, public schools and community orchestra. Today, he appreciates an ever-changing variety of music; current favorites include alternative and acoustic rock, world music, classic blues and jazz. A dual US and Canadian citizen, David has enjoyed many summers with extended family on the Gatineau River, in Quebec, Canada, near Ottawa, the nation's capital. He enjoys walking for fitness in all seasons, openwater swimming, paddling, bicycling (a pleasure rediscovered in the Netherlands), cross-country (Nordic) skiing and gardening.
David's wife, stream ecologist Kathleen McGrath, is a Consulting Environmental Scientist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and Adjunct Assistant Professor with ESF's Department of Environmental and Forestry Biology. Kathy's primary professional focus is the clean-up and restoration of Onondaga Lake and its watershed, from a regulatory perspective. Their son, Nathan, an assiduous middle schooler, enjoys baseball, basketball, and anything electronic. David's oldest son, Raphael, is a graduate of the University of Washington, with a B.S. in Informatics. In his first job out of UW's iSchool, Rafa worked with Global Market Insite, a venture-capital funded, online marketing survey/ software firm based in the Seattle area; he now lives and works in the Santa Cruz, California area. Number two son, Joshua, is the Associate Director of the Sierra Club's "Our Wild America" campaign; before that, he was a campaign manager with Save the Bay, in Oakland, California.
When they have a chance, David and his family enjoy exploring nature, history, and culture in upstate New York, the Ottawa/ Gatineau region, and elsewhere around the world.
David A. Sonnenfeld's Home Page
last updated March 8, 2015