What I do

My research interests are in the general area of sustainability science, ecological economics, and population geography. Much of this research involves the use of nighttime satellite imagery for mapping and measuring population distribution, economic activity, anthropogenic impact on the environment, and urban sprawl. I am also interested in the mapping and valuation of ecosystem services. Future research activity will involve the development of spatially explicit maps of carrying capacity at various spatial scales and developing metrics of urban metabolism to establish baseline measures in the field of urbanization science.
I serve on several international expert panels and working groups including the European Commission’s Human Planet Initiative , The economics of land degradation initiative, and the UN’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO 6) . I also serve as an editor for several academic journals including Sustainability, Ecological Economics and Statistics, and Expresion Economica Revista. I currently live in the town of Morrison, Colorado and serve on the town's Board of Trustees.

Specialization(s)

population geography, ecological economics, ecosystem services, sustainability science, urbanization science, remote sensing, geographic information science

Professional Biography

I grew up in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California (Laurel Canyon) during the 1960's. The movie 'Soylent Green' and the chest pain I experienced with deep breaths during smog alerts had a significant impact on me and my nascent perception of the Human-Environment-Sustainability problematic. I later moved to Santa Barbara during my High School years and was deeply influenced by the works of Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, and Garrett Hardin. Needless to say my early childhood experiences primed me to be significantly influenced by apocalyptic movies and neo-malthusian jeremiads.

I discovered Geography through friends that were graduate students in Geography at UCSB in the early 1990s. I milked my time as a graduate student in the Geography Department at UCSB for as long as I could obtaining an M.A. in Geography in 1995, an M.A. in Statistics in 1997, and a PhD in Geography in 1999. My dissertation was titled: "Census from Heaven: Estimation of human population parameters using nighttime satellite imagery and GIS". I am deeply indebted to many faculty at UCSB for their guidance and their service to the discipline.

I took a position in the Geography Department at the University of Denver in the Fall of 1999 and have been here since then. I have many interests spanning much of geography but ranging into ecology, economics, and philosophy. Most of my research focuses on applied issues associated with the Human-Environment-Sustainability problematic. The tools needed to engage in this research are remote sensing , geographic information analysis, and statistics. I also am interested in the development of the discipline of ecological economics. I use my expertise in GIS and spatial data analysis in collaborations with economists and ecologists to make spatially explicit valuations of ecosystem services. My interests are quite broad and I have had students work in areas ranging from crime mapping, to explaining ‘high-stakes’ testing scores in the public schools, to mapping invasive species.

My fascination with apocalyptic movies has not faded though and I teach a first year seminar titled: Utopia, Dystopia, and the End of the World. I do my small part to insure that 'Soylent Green' remains in the lexicon of the culturally literate. I also teach remote sensing, population geography, and ecological economics. I try to serve the discipline of Geography primarily by teaching and mentoring students in a way that prepares them to be informed and active citizens, provides them with unique and relevant skills that helps them pursue meaningful careers, and provokes and stimulates their curiosity and intellect in ways that insures that they appreciate that a geographic perspective is essential to a rich intellectual life.

Degree(s)

  • Ph.D., Geography, UCSB, 1999
  • MA, Applied Statistics, UCSB, 1997
  • MA, Geography, UCSB, 1995
  • BS, Chemistry, Union College, 1983

Licensure / Accreditations

  • Licensed Permaculture Design Certificate

Professional Affiliations

  • Association of American Geographers
  • International Society of Ecological Economics
  • American Association of University Professors

Research

His research interests are in the general area of sustainability science, ecological economics, urbanization science, and population geography. Much of his research involves the use of nighttime satellite imagery for mapping and measuring population distribution, economic activity, anthropogenic impact on the environment, and urban sprawl. Dr. Sutton is also interested in the mapping and valuation of ecosystem services. Future research activity will involve the development of spatially explicit maps of carrying capacity at various spatial scales and developing metrics of urban metabolism to establish baseline measures in the field of urbanization science.

Key Projects

  • Gis Application Related to Air Quality Monitoring

Featured Publications

  • The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital
  • Census from Heaven: an estimate of the global human population using night-time satellite imagery
  • A scale-adjusted measure of “urban sprawl” using nighttime satellite imagery
  • Changes in the global value of ecosystem services
  • Paving the planet: impervious surface as proxy measure of the human ecological footprint

Performances

Valuing our planet

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-b5uqw-557460

  • Adelaide South Australia
Engaging Ideas: Ecosystem Services and Why they count

This Engaging Idea explores the concept of valuing nature— that is, putting an economic value on the services that nature provides.

  • Denver, CO
Growthbusters: Running out of Gas

What if we told you the coming climate catastrophe MAY not turn out to be as bad as we all thought? I’m not sure I’m ready to buy that, but one of our guests on this episode tells us just that. IPCC worst-case scenarios seem to forget peak oil. Limited fossil fuel supplies on the planet could be a factor. But don’t break out the champagne; we still have enough fossil fuels to screw things up pretty badly. See what you think!

Presentations

  • 'Changes to the global value of ecosystem services: A market Failure?'
  • Global Urban Metabolism
  • Census from Heaven: An estimate of the global human population using nighttime satellite imagery and GIS
  • Alone in the Void: Getting Real about the fragile and tenuous nature of modern civilization
  • Mapping and Monetizing the Human Ecological Footprint: Exploring national patterns of ecological deficit and surplus

Awards

  • Mission to Planet Earth Fellowship, NASA
  • Best Poster Award, World Geospatial Forum
  • Jon I. Davidson President's Award, American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
  • Excellence in Research Award, Department of Geography UCSB