Curator of Human Ecology
2340 Albert Street
REGINA SK S4P 2V7
Adjunct Appointments: Geography, University of Regina
Prospective Graduate Students
As someone who has always loved to study nature and people, I am intrigued by strategies that individuals and communities use to withstand and recover from stress. For much of my career, I pursued this interest as a lab and field biologist interested in physiology and wildlife conservation. More recently, I have been pursuing it as a human ecologist interested in education for sustainable development, with emphasis on community engagement, sense of place, and personal creativity.
My current research program has two broad themes: the role of systems thinking in sustainability work, and the potential impact of sustainability issues on cultural evolution. These are important lines of enquiry, given that many current economic and land-use practices are unsustainable. Instead of enhancing human welfare, these practices lead to environmental damage, socio-economic disparity, and net declines in different types of capital. It is also clear that some pervasive cultural norms are problematic, including consumerism, misleading economic measures, and long-standing gaps that isolate people from each other and from nature.
My research has shown how cultural differences can affect the development of sustainability initiatives, from student-led action projects to community-driven ecomuseums. I have also highlighted the role that personal creativity can play in fostering connections with nature and other people.
My studies are generally guided by the following questions:
- What do cultures of sustainability look like, and how can they be fostered?
- What can spatial mapping and narrative enquiry tell us about the resilience and regional variation of these cultures?
- How do sustainable communities reflect and respond to the living heritage of a region, including different forms of creative expression (e.g., music, art and writing)?
- What indicators are in place, or need to be developed, to help communities move onto a sustainable path?
I am currently studying the role that ecomuseums can play in sustainability education. First developed in the 1970s for cultural interpretation, the ecomuseum model has since been adapted and applied around the world as a “museum without walls” and “an agreement by which a local community takes care of a place.” There were no ecomuseums in Saskatchewan before I started this work but now there are several, providing a basis for exciting community development projects.
I am also studying the relationship between personal creativity and nature connection through a unique research and outdoor education project I started called Songs for Nature. This project is not only creating wonderful songs; it is also providing important insights about the value of nature-based education.
Prospective Graduate Students
I am always eager to work with students who are curious and enthusiastic about conservation ecology, sustainability education, and cultural questions. Students with external funding or scholarships are especially welcome, but if all you have is good ideas, contact me anyway and we’ll see what we can do to acquire funding.
Here are some broad topics that might be of interest:
- Historic and predicted effects of climate change on prairie landscapes and communities as linked eco-social systems.
- The intrinsic and instrumental value of organic and conventional farms, protected areas, and urban settings.
- Steps that museums and their partners can take to foster cultures of sustainability through research, exhibits, and programs.
- The role that living heritage can play in sustainability education and community development, especially through ecomuseums.
Prospective graduate students must meet the requirements of the faculty of Graduate Studies and Research and the Geography Department at the University of Regina.
Recent Peer-Reviewed Publications
Sutter, G. C., L. O'Malley, and T. Sperlich. 2023. Rural community engagement for heritage conservation and adaptive renewal. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship. https://doi.org/10.54656/jces.v15i2.497
Sutter, G. C. 2022. Canadian ecomuseums and climate change: Assessing the potential. Pg 175-188 in N. Borrelli, P. Davis, and R. dal Santo (Eds.), Ecomuseums and Climate Change. Ledizioni, Manila.
Peigan, D., G. C. Sutter, and A. Fletcher. 2022. Indigenous perspectives on heritage conservation and the ecomuseum approach: Initial findings from Saskatchewan. Prairie History 8:72-82.
Sutter, G. C. 2020. Where do museums fit? A review of "The Future We Choose." Museum Management and Curatorship. DOI: 10.1080/09647775.2020.1837002
Sutter, G. C. 2019. When global changes hit home: Museums as catalysts for local development. Museum International, 71:3-4, 76-87, DOI: 10.1080/13500775.2019.1706946
Hall, A. M. H., and G. C. Sutter. 2019. Conserving biodiversity through citizen science: Is there a role for ecomuseums? International Journal of the Inclusive Museum. 12 (4): 23-31
Kincaid, A. T., G. C. Sutter, and A. J. Fletcher. 2019. Highlights and Future Directions for Ecomuseum Development in Saskatchewan. Prairie Forum 40:72-83
Sutter, G. C., A. T. Kincaid, A. J. Fletcher, and T. Sperlich. 2019. Adapting Through Heritage: Can Ecomuseums Make Saskatchewan Communities More Sustainable? Prairie Forum 40:1-14
Arbuthnott, K. D. and G. C. Sutter. 2019. Songwriting for nature: Increasing nature connection and well-being through musical creativity. Environmental Education Research https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2019.1608425
Kincaid, A. T., G. C. Sutter, and A. M. H. Hall. 2019. Ecomuseums in Saskatchewan: Viewing networks and partnerships through a regional and project-specific lens. Pg 407-424 in David B. Zandvliet (ed.), Culture and Environment: Weaving New Connections. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV.
Sutter, G. C. and L. Teather. 2017. Getting to the core: Can ecomuseums foster cultures of sustainability? Pg. 51-57 in R. Riva (ed.), Ecomuseums and Cultural Landscapes: State of the Art and Future Prospects, Maggioli Editore, Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy. https://re.public.polimi.it/handle/11311/1041602.
Sutter, G.C. -2017. Growing ecomuseums on the Canadian prairies: Prospects for intangible cultural heritage. Pp 453-464 in P. Davis and M. L. Stefano (eds), Routledge Companion to Intangible Cultural Heritage. Routledge: New York.
Sutter, G. C., T. Sperlich, D. Worts, R. Rivard, and L. Teather. 2016. Fostering cultures of sustainability through community-engaged museums: The history and re-emergence of ecomuseums in Canada and the USA. Sustainability 8(12), 1310; doi: 10.3390/su8121310
Sutter, G. C., S. K. Davis, J. C. Skiffington, L. M. Keating, and L. A. Pittaway. 2016. Nesting behavior and reproductive success of Sprague’s Pipit (Anthus spragueii) and Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus) during pipeline construction. Canadian Field-Naturalist 130(1): 99-109.
Sutter, G.C. 2015. Galleries for life: Responses to nature dioramas and sustainability exhibits at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Scene 3(1-2):27-35, doi 10.1386/scene.3.1.27_1
Arbuthnott, K.D., G.C. Sutter, and C.T. Heidt. 2014. Natural history museums, parks, and connection with nature. Museum Management and Curatorship. DOI: 10.1080/09647775.2014.888818
Logan, R., and G.C. Sutter. 2012. Sustainability and museum education: what future are we educating for?International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 4:11-26.