As the Director of Agriculture, David is responsible for developing the Conservancy’s organization-wide strategy to ensure that global efforts to achieve food security are pursued in a manner that safeguards biodiversity and ecosystem services.
David joined The Nature Conservancy in 1999, where he set up the organization’s Amazon program, focusing it on the protection of indigenous lands and minimizing the impact of agricultural expansion. He was subsequently based for several years in Rio de Janeiro as Director of Conservation Strategies for Latin America, where he led work with commodity markets and the private sector, especially agribusiness, working especially on the beef and soy industries in Brazil and the Brazil-China soy trade.
A British citizen, David gained a doctorate in anthropology from Oxford University in 1988. His thesis, later published as a book, was on the social organization of wildcat gold-mining camps in the Amazon, based on two years of fieldwork. He worked as an academic at the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge in the UK and Harvard in the US, writing a number of books and articles on development and environmental issues in the Amazon. He then returned to the Amazon for four years directing a large multi-institutional EU-Brazilian project assessing the level of mercury contamination linked to gold mining in two river valleys in the Amazon.