Gretchen Walters
Assistant professor

University of Lausanne
Institute of geography and sustainability
Mouline - Géopolis 3612
CH-1015 Lausanne
Phone +41 21 692 3072

Landscapes & Societies Group

Landscapes are dynamic places, bearing the marks of the past through present day societal interactions and readable through its vegetation, animal and other components. In a given place, whether it be a Swiss alpine pasture or Central African savanna plateaux, the extent and nature of these places is heavily influenced by past practices. These past practices can also directly influence how institutions relate to each other today.

On the one hand, our group studies how societies and cultures shape landscapes over time through cultural practices, such as hunting and agriculture. To interpret these landscapes, we use a historical ecology approach through ethnographic, ethnobotanical, and archival research methods. We also collaborate with ecologists to bring historical perspectives to their plot work.

On the other hand, our group studies the practices of societies and conservation organisations to conserve, restore and protect these landscapes today.This includes community actions to protect their lands, to nature conservation and restoration projects (including protected areas) by governments and international organisations. We use conservation ethnography, interviews, and political ecology approaches to understand the interactions of stakeholders from the field to international fora.

We directly engage with community and conservation organisations, bringing practice and research together, notably the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the ICCA Consortium. With them, we document conservation practice and work with project managers to improve social aspects of their conservation work, such as restoration, tiger conservation, and landscape approaches.

Our group:

PhD students

Ariane Cosiaux, Raphia mambillensis, à la croisée des interactions sociétés - environnement: vers une écologie historique des paysages de la région des Grassfields au Cameroun. Co-supervised with Stéphanie Carrière (IRD, France).

Kavita Sharma, Woodland expansion in Scotland. Registered at ETH-Zurich. Co-supervised with Jaboury Ghazoul (ETH-Zurich) and Marc Metzger (University of Edinburgh).

Samantha Sithole, Natural resource governance and conservation initiatives: The hidden opportunity to address youth unemployment in Africa? Co-supervised with Frank Matose (University of Capetown)

Marina Cracco , Understanding the ecological infrastructure of Swiss protected areas: perceptions and impact assessments. Thesis as part of ValPar.CH.

Masters students

Simon Cheseaux. La cartographie participative et le processus de réappropriation de la gestion des espaces communautaires et au sein des politiques de conservations de la nature : Étude de cas de la communauté de Massaha au Gabon.

Noémie Lorenzi. La gestion des ressources naturelles communes et son rôle pour la conservation de la biodiversité locale : le cas de la Bourgeoisie de Sion dans le canton du Valais (Suisse).

Diana Melke. Understanding the effectiveness of alternative livelihood interventions in conservation projects: A case study on the IUCN Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Program.

Tina Raetzo. Quel est le rôle des populations locales dans la conservation au sein de Lewa Conservancy au Kenya et comment représenter au mieux leur implication au sein de l'exposition Lewa Savanna du zoo de Zürich ?


Lorraine Hamon. The portrayal of Scottish rewilding projects in sheep farms.