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Moira Zellner, PhD, Associate Professor

Moira Zellner joined the Department of Urban Planning & Policy as an Assistant Professor in January of 2006. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Moira earned her undergraduate degree in ecology at the Centro de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Exactas, and pursued graduate studies in urban and regional planning and in complex systems at the University of Michigan. Before coming to the US, she worked in Argentina as a consultant on environmental issues for local and international environmental engineering firms and for the undersecretary of Environment in the City of Buenos Aires, in projects related to domestic and hazardous waste management, river remediation, industrial pollution control, and environmental impact assessments. She also participated in interdisciplinary and international research projects of urban air pollution and of the spread of tuberculosis through public transportation.

In the US, her professional work includes greenway development and river restoration projects in Miami Beach and in California, and transportation surveys. Her current research involves assessing the environmental impacts of urbanization, and exploring how to enhance the sustainability and resilience of urban areas. The focus is on how specific policy and behavioral changes can effectively address complex environmental problems, in which decentralized decisions result in regional land-use and consumption patterns that negatively affect resource availability and quality. Her research also examines the applicability of complexity theory and complexity-based models to policy exploration and social learning.

1995 - Degree in Biology (Specialization in Ecology), Centro de Altos Estudios en Ciencias Exactas, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
2000 - Master in Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
2003 - Certificate in Complex Systems, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
2005 - PhD in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Dissertation: "Generating Policies for Sustainable Water Use in Complex Scenarios: An Integrated Land-Use and Water-Use Model of Monroe County, Michigan." Committee: Scott D. Campbell, Daniel G. Brown, Rick L. Riolo, John D. Nystuen.

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Research Interests

Agent-based modeling, complexity, environmental planning, participatory planning

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UPP 506 Plan Making Studio
UPP 571 Economic and Environmental Planning
UPP 570 Environmental Planning and Policy
UPP 463 Complexity-based Models for Planning and Policy

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Papers in refereed journals:
Iannone III, B. V.; Zellner, M.L.; Wise, D. H. (In Press). “Modeling the
impacts of life-history traits, canopy gaps, and establishment location on woodland shrub invasions.” Ecological Applications. [online] URL:

Watkins, C.; Massey, D.; Brooks, J.; Ross, K.; Zellner, M. (2013).
"Understanding the mechanisms of collective decision-making in ecological restoration: An agent-based model of actors and organizations." Ecology and Society 18 (2): 32. [online] URL:

Zellner, M.L., Reeves, H. W.. 2012. “Examining the contradiction in
‘sustainable urban growth’: An example of groundwater sustainability.”
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 55(5): 545-562.

Zellner, M.L., Lyons, L.; Hoch, C. J.; Weizeorick, J.; Kunda, C.; Milz,
D.. 2012. “Modeling, Learning and Planning Together: An Application of
Participatory Agent-Based Modeling to Environmental Planning.” URISA
Journal, GIS in Spatial Planning Issue, 24(1): 77-92.

McDonnell, S., Zellner, M. L.. 2011. “Exploring the Effectiveness of Bus
Rapid Transit: A Prototype Agent-Based Model of Commuting Behavior.”
Transport Policy 18(6): 825-835.

Mahesh, A.; Zellner, M. L.; Zielinski, S.; 2011. “Emerging Private Sector
Roles in Urban Transport: Case Study of an Innovative Telecom-GIS Solution in Bangalore.” Journal of Urban Technology, 18 (3): 67-80.

Zellner, M. L., Reeves, H. W.. 2010. “Integrating land-use and groundwater modeling: Opportunities, challenges and implications for policy analysis.” International Journal of Operations and Quantitative Management, Special Issue on Decision Making in Complex Systems, 16 (4): 389 - 414.

Reeves, H. W.; Zellner, M. L.. 2010. “Linking MODFLOW with an Agent-Based Land-Use Model to Support Decision Making.” Ground Water, Special Issue on MODFLOW and More 2008, 48 (5): 649 - 660.

Zellner, M. L.; Riolo, R.; Rand. W.; Brown, D. G.; Page, S. E.; Fernandez,
L. E.; 2010. “The Problem with Zoning: Nonlinear Effects of Interactions
between Location Preferences and Externalities on Land Use and Utility.” Environment and Planning B 37 (3): 408-428.

Zellner, M. L.; Page, S. E.; Rand, W.; Brown, D. G.; Robinson, D. T.;
Nassauer, J.; Low, B.; 2009. "The Emergence of Zoning Games in Exurban Jurisdictions." Land Use Policy 26 (2009): 356-367.

Lu, Y.; Kawamura, K.; Zellner, M. L.; 2008. "Exploring the Influence of
Urban Form on Work Travel Behavior with Agent-Based Modeling." Journal of the Transportation Research Record (2082): 132-40.

Zellner, M. L.; 2008. “Embracing Complexity and Uncertainty: The Potential of Agent-Based Modeling for Environmental Planning and Policy.” Planning Theory & Practice 9 (4): 437-457.

Zellner, M. L.; Theis, T. L.; Karunanithi, A. T.; Garmestani, A. S.;
Cabezas, H.; 2008. “A New Framework for Urban Sustainability Assessments: Linking Complexity, Information and Policy.” Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, Special Issue on Geocomputation: Modeling with Spatial Agents 32 (6): 474-488.

Brown, D.G.; Robinson, D.T., An, L.; Nassauer, J. I.; Zellner, M. L; Rand,
W.; Riolo, R.; Page, S. E.; Low, B.; Wang, Z.; 2008. “Exurbia from the
bottom-up: Confronting empirical challenges to characterizing a complex
system.” Geoforum 39 (2): 805-818.

Zellner, M. L.; 2007. “Generating Policies for Sustainable Water Use in
Complex Scenarios: An Integrated Land-Use and Water-Use Model of Monroe County, Michigan.” Environment and Planning B, Planning and Design 34 (4): 664-686.

Brown, D. G.; Page, S. E.; Riolo, R.; Zellner, M. L.; Rand. W.; 2005.
“Path dependence and the validation of agent-based spatial models of land use.” International Journal of Geographical Information Science, Special Issue on Land Use Dynamics 19 (2): 153-174.

Book chapters:
Zellner, M. L.; Hoch, C. J.; Welch, E. W.; 2011. “Leaping Forward:
Building resilience by communicating vulnerability.” In Collaborative
Resilience: Moving From Crisis to Opportunity, edited by B. E. Goldstein:
MIT Press.

Working papers and technical reports:
Massey, D.; Zellner, M. L.; Cotner, L; Minor, E.; Gonzalez-Meler, M.;
2010. “Landscape Green Infrastructure Design Model (L-GrID) User’s Manual. Report and software to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jaffe, M.; Zellner, M.; Minor, E.; Gonzalez-Meler, M.; Cotner, L.; Massey,
D.; Ahmed, H.; Elberts, M.; Wise, S.; Sprague, H.; Miller, B.;  2010.
“Using Green Infrastructure to Manage Urban Stormwater Quality: A Review of Selected Practices and State Programs.”  Springfield; Illinois EPA (Final Report, October 2010). 146 pp.

Conference proceedings:
Lyons, L., Minor, E., Zellner, M., Slattery, B., & Shelley, T. (2012).
Parsing patterns: Developing metrics to characterize spatial problem
solving strategies within an environmental science simulation. Paper
presented at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA 2012), Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Slattery, B.; Dasgupta, C.; Shelley, T.; Lyons, L.; Zellner, M.; Minor,
E.; 2012. “Understanding How Learners Grapple with Wicked Problems in Environmental Science.” Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, International Society of the Learning Sciences Sydney, Australia.

Shelley, T.; Lyons, L.; Minor, E.; Zellner, M.; 2011. “Evaluating a
Paper-Based TUI for Spatially-Explicit Simulations.” In 29th international
conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI EA '11).

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Room 227

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