Biographical Sketch

 Sacred banyon tree and spirit house in Bangkok, Thailand.


Leslie E. Sponsel earned the BA in Geology fromIndiana University (1965), and the MA (1973) and PhD (1981) in Biological and Cultural Anthropology from Cornell University. Over the last four decades he has taught at seven universities in four countries, two as a Fulbright Fellow. In 1981 he joined the Anthropology faculty at the University of Hawai’i to develop and direct the Ecological Anthropology Program. His courses include Ecological Anthropology, Environmental Anthropology, Anthropology of Religion, Spiritual Ecology, Sacred Places, Anthropology of Buddhism, Ethics in Anthropology, and Anthropology of War and Peace. Although retired since August 2010, he teaches one or two courses annually and devotes the rest of his time to research and publications.

 From 1974 to 1981 Sponsel conducted several trips to the Venezuelan Amazon to study human ecology with the Yanomami and other indigenous societies. Almost yearly since 1986 Sponsel has made research trips to Thailand to study various aspects of Buddhist ecology and environmentalism together with his wife, Dr. Poranee Natadecha-Sponsel, retired from Chaminade University of Honolulu. In recent years their work in northern Thailand has focused on exploring sacred caves.

 Among Sponsel’s extensive publications are more than two dozen journal articles, three dozen book chapters, 29 entries in seven different scientific encyclopedias, and two edited and two co-edited books. Henceforth he will focus on publishing other books integrating his previous articles and chapters on several different subjects as well as on developing the Research Institute for Spiritual Ecology (RISE) and its website:

Also see faculty homepage:




Sacred Cave, Northern Thailand