Dr. David Casagrande

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Picture of Dr.David Casagrande

Associate Professor of Anthropology


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STEPS Building, Room 436
Lehigh University
1 West Packer Ave.
Bethlehem, PA 18015

Tel: (610) 758-2672

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I am an ecological anthropologist who studies how culture shapes the way humans interact with natural environments. My research topics range from how Tzeltal Maya use medicinal plants to decisions about water in the American Southwest, response to flooding and climate change, and impacts of extractive technologies like hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. All my research is designed to inform public policy and promote change.

We are on the verge of a massive socio-ecological transition, similar to the agricultural and industrial revolutions. Today's students will be the architects of a new worldview. My responsibility as a teacher is to help students learn to navigate this transition by using critical thinking and avoiding cultural bias that leads to "ecomyopia".

I originally majored in music in college and played professionally for over 10 years. But the sound of nature is the sweetest music to my ears. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors--fishing the Connecticut shoreline, hiking the mountains of New England, canoeing the bogs of Maine, and identifying birds and wild plants. In 1984 I received a bachelor degree in geography and worked for 10 years as a transportation planner and policy analyst for the state of Connecticut. During that time, I began to question human impacts on our natural environment. In 1994 I changed careers and went to the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to earn a master’s degree in ecology and policy. I eventually realized that to solve our problems we need to understand how people think about nature and organize themselves to interact with the natural world. I decided to study for a doctoral degree in ecological anthropology at the University of Georgia. Twists and turns in my career have allowed me to live with cowboys in Venezuela, Mayans in Mexico, and other wonderful people. Along the way, I learned new languages like Spanish and Tzeltal Maya.

The impending socio-ecological transition will require all of us to re-evaluate our lifestyles and rediscover commitments to local communities, in addition to adopting the most appropriate new technologies. In 2012, I purchased an 8-acre homestead in New Tripoli, Pennsylvaia and restored the 19th century house using green building principles. I removed the oil heat and installed a high-efficiency ductless heat pump. I purchase 100% wind-generated electricity from our utility provider. The result is complete comfort with a negligible carbon footprint and minimal additional cost. I also try to be sustainable by telecommuting, growing as much organic food as I can, saving and exchanging heirloom seeds, and engaging in reciprocity with local producers. I even grow my own medicinal plants.

Download Full Curriculum Vitae

Homestead garden in New Tripoli
 Our farm house in New Tripoli

Current Positions

Associate Professor of Anthropology, Lehigh University

Research Coordinator, Environmental Initiative, Lehigh University

Production Editor, Journal of Ecological Anthropology

Topic Editor, Encyclopedia of Earth

Associate Editor, Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine


Ph.D., University of Georgia, Ecological Anthropology

Master of Forest Science, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

B.S., Geography, Southern Connecticut State University


ENGLISH - primary, SPANISH - secondary, TZELTAL (Maya) - intermediate, GERMAN - basic

"Scientists believe in proof without certainty: most people believe in certainty without proof."

Ashley Montagu