Rural Sociology and the Environment clearly and carefully illustrates the evolution of natural resource sociology and social science as a distinct field of study. Well before "social-ecological systems" became a popular concept in academic literature broadly, Donald R. Field and William R. Burch, Jr. co-authored this seminal text on what they call "social ecology." In this examination, these authors explore the evolving concepts of the environment in Rural Sociology during the 20th century from "dominion over nature" to "expanding the domain of nature" to "nature as a partner," which reflects a broader recognition of human dependence on environmental systems. One important contribution of this text is the revelation that the contemporary recognition of environmental service values for people emerges in part from a rigorous tradition of scholarship in Rural Sociology.
Don R. Field has dedicated his scholarship to promoting the relevance and importance of social science data to natural resource management practices. Dr. Field graduated with a PhD in rural sociology from Penn State University in 1968 and he is often credited as one of the pioneers of natural resource social science research. Field is one of the cofounders of the Social Ecological Press, which, similar to his own scholarship, is dedicated to bridging the gap between recreation resource management, rural sociology, social ecology, and natural resource sociology.
William R. Burch has held research and management positions with the USDA Forest Service, USAID, National Park Service, and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, and is the Frederick C. Hixon Professor Emeritus of Natural Resource Management and Senior Research Scientist at Yale University. His work on wildland recreation behavior was among the earliest, and it expanded to include parks, biosphere reserves, and ecotourist regions in rural and urban areas in Asia, South America, and Europe, as well as in North America. He conducted some of the original work on community/social forestry systems and forestry strategies for urban neighborhoods. His work in institutional development has included technical training and higher education curriculum development in South and Southeast Asia.