Dave Engle

360 days of sunshine a year! The days seemed always to be sunny in the desert of New Mexico where I grew up. Even where I went to college and where I’ve lived since has been mostly in climates in which the sun shines most days of the year. A humid climate that produces lots of big trees is just not my cup of tea. I feel like I need to see the horizon uncluttered by trees or buildings, or I feel closed in, as in claustrophobia. I prefer big skies and wide open spaces. When I stumbled upon rangeland ecology and management, my academic area, I nearly instantly identified with it because rangelands are by definition incapable of growing large trees! Finding my place in the world took longer and took a less obvious path than my academic career. Born into a family of devoted churchgoers, my early life was mostly normal, characterized by obediently following parental directives, which included ample time in church. This worked pretty well for me until I was sufficiently independent of parental authority to make my own choices, at which point I questioned most rules for which I could see no particular immediate personal advantage. Rebellion might be a better word than questioned. When I became responsible for my young family and terrified that I might mess it up, I turned to the only footing I knew, a system of religious rules that would plant me on solid ground for decisions. Although this worked well to a point, I eventually despaired that rules alone led ultimately to failure, dissatisfaction, and guilt. Not much sunshine there! Rules without relationship failed me, but when I encountered people who radiated joy and peace and who worshipped God with abandon, it opened a whole new world to me, a world centered on a relationship with a personal God. This opened my mind to new possibilities. I began seriously contemplating the magnificent complexity of the natural world, particularly that of ecosystems. It became obvious to me that ecosystem complexity, hailed among scientists as too complex to comprehend in its entirety, could be attributed most logically to a supreme being, a creator. Because everyone has faith in something, I chose to place my faith and my aspirations on a satisfying explanation for ecosystem complexity, a Creator. Rather than choosing to place my faith in the created (i.e., nature, the natural world), I chose the Creator God as the object of my faith. Convinced that this same creator loves me and the rest of humanity and has reconciled humanity to himself through Jesus Christ, has given me a future of “sunny days.”

My Life

My hobbies

Fly fishing in the Rockies, Grandkids, Reading, Silversmithing

My undergrad alma mater

Abilene Christian University

In college I drove

Plymouth Fury II

If I weren't a professor, I would

be a fire ecologist or wildland fire manager.

Favorite books

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides; Michael McGarrity's American West Trilogy; Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World by Walker and Salt; Fire in American by Stephen Pyne; Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean

Favorite movies

A River Runs Through It

Favorite coffee

Not coffee. Black tea.

My latest accomplishment

Certification as a senior fire ecologist by the Association for Fire Ecology