David was born and raised in a New England family with strong ties to the sea and a tradition of active storytelling. He and his two sisters and brother grew up around boats and the mountains, inspired by the adventures of their parents. David attended Bowdoin College, where he majored in religious studies. He describes his collegiate highlight as a sea semester at the Williams College-Mystic Seaport program, where he learned celestial navigation and completed a research project on the restoration of the Arctic schooner Bowdoin.
After college, he worked as a hired sail captain, then completed two transatlantic crossings and five years as an educator at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine. He studied Leadership and received his master’s degree in Education and Moral Development at Harvard School of Education, while directing and producing his first film for National Geographic Explorer, titled Outward Bound. While in Cambridge he also met his wife and life partner Beverly Slade, a former professional musician who was completing her doctorate work in psychology. In 1987, he founded the production company Compass Light Productions. Three years later, David and Beverly moved to Camden, Maine to raise a daughter and a son. Beverly established a private practice.
Today, Compass Light is a producer of science, history and expedition/travel films for worldwide broadcasters and clients. Topic genres include marine science, maritime history, marine fishing policy, aquaculture, energy, genetics, and the changing climate of planet Earth. Thirty years -and many hundreds of films- later, the company has been listed as a “Top 100 Global Production company” by ReelScreen. Highlight series and films include Sunrise Earth (Discovery), Big Picture Earth (CuriosityStream), and Behold the Earth (independent feature doc), and The ReelEarth Collection. Many of David's films are distributed by the BlueMarvel distribution label.
Along the way, initiatives were taking place adjacent to the Compass Light team's work. In 2014/15, David took a “reverse sabbatical,” as a Coastal Studies Scholar at Bowdoin College, where he developed and taught two original courses: Digital Seashore Diaries, and Science to Story. He was pleased to integrate a visit to the restored and active schooner Bowdoin with the school's Arctic Studies program. In 2015/16, he founded the Conservation Media Group (CMG), a not-for-profit intermediary organization that supports the next generation of filmmaker activists and organizations campaigning for healthier oceans, and a just and fossil-free economy. Significant CMG organizational campaigning partners have included the Ocean Recovery Alliance, the Pew Charitable Trust, and 350.org.
Over the years, David has volunteered as a Board Member at the Penobscot Marine Museum, and as an Advisory Board Member at the Mystic Seaport Museum, Alnoba and the Lewis Family Foundation, and the Ocean Foundation. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Hurricane Island Center for Science and Leadership. David and his parents and extended family have also been the volunteer seasonal caretakers at the Curtis Island Lighthouse for the Town of Camden for over forty years.