Geography, University of Regina
Educational Foundations, University of Saskatchewan
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.
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, their outcomes include 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 like the GDP, and long-standing gaps that isolate people from each other and from nature.
Some of my past research has shown how cultural differences can affect the structure and direction of community-based ecosystem management and student-led action projects. I also helped to design a critical assessment framework (CAF) that lays out criteria for sustainability work across a range of spatial scales. Most recently, I have shown how museums can provide a ‘virtual nature’ experience and developed a CAF-like tool aimed at sustainability education.
My future studies will be 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 developing a major project that will examine 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.” A multi-agency project developed in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on ESD, the Saskatchewan Ecomuseums Initiative will focus on over a dozen potential ecomuseum sites that represent urban and rural settings across the province.
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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, or the College of Graduate Studies and Research and the Department of Educational Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan.
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.
Pittaway, L., J. Skiffington, G.C. Sutter and S. Davis. 2010. Sprague's Pipit and Vesper Sparrow Breeding Success during Pipeline Construction and Clean-up Activity. 9th Prairie Conservation and Endangered Species conference in Winnipeg, MB (poster)
Underwood, T. J., Sealy, S. G. and Sutter, G. C. 2009. Connecticut Warbler clutches from Saskatchewan: uncertain status and an abnormally pigmented clutch. Blue Jay 67:138-144.
Sutter, G. C. 2008. Promoting sustainability: audience and curatorial perspectives on The Human Factorexhibition.Curator: The Museum Journal. 51:187-202.
Sutter, G. C. and D. Martz. 2008. Growing people and communities: workshop rationale and synthesis. Pp 93-98 in R. Warnock, D. Gauthier, J. Schmutz, A. Patkau, P. Fargey, and M. Schellenberg, eds. Homes on the Range: Conservation in Working Prairie Landscapes, Canadian Plains Research Center, Regina, SK.
Barrett, M. J., P. Hart, and G. Sutter. 2008. Engaging students and challenging culture: a Canadian case study in action-oriented education. Pp 18-21 in M. Mayer and J. Tschapka, eds. Engaging Youth in Sustainable Development: Learning and Teaching Sustainable Development in Lower Secondary Schools. European Environment and the Schools Project, Council of Europe.
Sutter, G. C. 2006. Thinking like a system: are museums up to the challenge? Museums & Social Issues1:203-218.
Barrett, M. J., and G. C. Sutter. 2006. A Youth Forum on Sustainability meets The Human Factor: Challenging cultural narratives in schools and museums. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education6:9-23.
Sutter, G. C. 2005. Can We Live Sustainably? An Overview of The Human Factor Section of the Life Sciences Gallery. Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Government of Saskatchewan.
Sutter, G. C., D. J. F. Martz, J. Lauriault, R. A. Sissons, and J. Berman. 2005. Mutual trust in community-based ecosystem management: early insights from the Frenchman River Biodiversity Project. Pp. 69-78 in T. A. Radenbaugh and G. C. Sutter, eds. Managing Changing Prairie Landscapes. Canadian Plains Research Center, Regina, SK.
Radenbaugh, T. A., and G. C. Sutter. 2005. The challenge of managing changing prairie landscapes. Pages 1-10 in Radenbaugh, T. A., and G. C. Sutter (eds). Managing Changing Prairie Landscapes, Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina.
Sutter, G. C., and D. Worts. 2005. Negotiating a sustainable path: museums and societal therapy. Pp. 129-151 in R. R. Janes and G. Conaty, eds. Looking Reality in the Eye: Museums and Social Responsibility. Univ. of Calgary Press, Calgary, AB.
Sutter, G. C. 2000. Ecocentrism, anxiety, and biophilia in environmental education: a museum case-study. In W. L. Filho, ed. Communicating Sustainability. Peter Lang Scientific Publishers, New York, NY. pp. 333-348.
Sutter, G. C., S. K. Davis, and D. C. Duncan. 2000. Grassland songbird abundance along roads and trails in southern Saskatchewan. Journal of Field Ornithology 71:110-116.
Sutter, G. C., and R. M. Brigham. 1998. Avifaunal and habitat changes resulting from conversion of native prairie to crested wheat grass: patterns at songbird community and species levels. Canadian Journal of Zoology76:869-975.
Sutter, G. C. 1997. Nest-site selection and nest-entrance orientation in Sprague's Pipit. The Wilson Bulletin109:462-469.
Sutter, G. C., D. J. Sawatzky, D. M. Cooper and R. M. Brigham. 1996. Renesting intervals in Sprague's Pipit,Anthus spragueii. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 110:694-697.
Sutter, G. C., M. Forbes and T. Troupe. 1995. Abundance of Baird's sparrows, Ammodramus bairdii, in native prairie and introduced vegetation. Écoscience 2: 344-348.
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