Leslie E. Sponsel earned the B.A. in Geology from Indiana University (1965), and the M.A. (1973) and Ph.D. (1981) in Anthropology from Cornell University. Over the last four decades he has taught at seven universities in four countries. These posts include a Fulbright Fellowship in Anthropology at the Venezuelan Institute for Scientific Investigations in Caracas, Venezuela, and in Biology at the Prince of Songkhla University in Pattani, Thailand.
Since 1981 Sponsel has served on the anthropology faculty at the University of Hawai`i where he is currently a Professor and the Director of the Ecological Anthropology Program. There he teaches ecological anthropology, environmental anthropology, the anthropology of religion, spiritual ecology, and sacred places, among other courses. At the University of Hawai`i he was a founding member of the Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Biology Program, Resource Management Certificate, and Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace.
From 1974-1981 Sponsel made several research trips to the Venezuelan Amazon to study human ecology including the behavioral ecology of hunting among the Yanomami and of fishing among the Curripaco. Almost yearly since 1986 he has made research trips to Thailand to explore various aspects of Buddhist ecology and environmentalism together with his wife, Dr. Poranee Natadecha-Sponsel of Chaminade University of Honolulu. They are currently developing a new long-term, interdisciplinary, team research project exploring the possible ecological relationships among Buddhist monks, sacred caves, bats, forests, and biodiversity conservation in Thailand.
Among Sponsel’s extensive publications are more than two dozen journal articles, three dozen book chapters, and two dozen articles in ten different scientific encyclopedias. He edited two books: Indigenous Peoples and the Future of Amazonia: An Ecological Anthropology of an Endangered World (University of Arizona Press, 1995), and Endangered Peoples of Southeast and East Asia: Struggles to Survive and Thrive (Greenwood Press, 2000), and is senior co-editor of two others, The Anthropology of Peace and Nonviolence (Lynne Rienner, 1994), and Tropical Deforestation: The Human Dimension (Columbia University Press, 1996). Other books are in preparation including a textbook on ecological anthropology and a collection of essays on Buddhist ecology and environmentalism.