Skip to content

Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs; Director of Participatory Modeling and Data Science

Moira Zellner’s academic background lies at the intersection of Urban and Regional Planning, Environmental Science, and Complexity. She has served as Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator in interdisciplinary projects examining how specific policy, technological and behavioral factors influence the emergence and impacts of a range of complex socio-ecological systems problems, where interaction effects make responsibilities, burdens, and future pathways unclear. Her research also examines how participatory complex systems modeling with stakeholders and decision-makers can support collaborative policy exploration, social learning, and system-wide transformation. Moira has taught a variety of workshops on complexity-based modeling of socio-ecological systems, for training of both scientists and decision-makers in the US and abroad. She has served the academic community spanning across the social and natural sciences, as reviewer of journals and grants and as a member of various scientific organizations. She is dedicated to serving the public through her engaged research and activism.

Before coming to Northeastern, Moira was an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy and the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy at University of Illinois at Chicago. She also headed the Urban Data Visualization Lab at UIC. Prior to her academic career, Moira worked as an environmental consultant for local and international environmental engineering firms and for the undersecretary of Environment in the City of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

View CV
  • American Planning Association Inaugural Academic Tech Innovator Award, 2017
  • University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Institute Scholar, 2009-2010

Journal Articles

  • Zellner, M.; Garcia, G. A.; Bert, F.; Massey, D.; Nosetto, M.; 2020. Exploring reciprocal interactions between groundwater and land cover decisions in flat agricultural areas and variable climate.” Environmental Modelling & Software 126(2020): 104641.
  • Elsawah, S.; Filatova, T.; Jakeman, A.J.; Kettner, A.J.; Zellner, M. L.; Athanasiadis, I.N.; Hamilton, S.H.; Axtell, R.L.; Brown, D.G.; Gilligan, J.M.; Janssen, M.A.; Robinson, D.T.; Rozenberg, J.; Ullah, I.I.T.; Lade, S.J.; 2019. Eight grand challenges in socio-environmental systems modeling.” Socio-Environmental Systems Modeling 2(2020):
  • Sterling, E.; Zellner, M.; Jenni, K.E.; Leong, K.; Glynn, P.; BenDor, T.; Bommel, P.; Hubacek, K.; Jetter, A.; Jordan, R.; Schmitt Olabisi, L.; Paolisso, M.; Gray, S.. 2019. Try, try again: Lessons learned from success and failure in participatory modeling.” Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 7(1), p.9. DOI:
  • Jordan, R.; Gray, S.; Zellner, M.; Glynn, P.; Voinov, A.; Hedelin, B.; Sterling, E.; Leong, K.; Schmitt-Olabisi, L.; Hubaceck, K.; Bommel, P.; BenDor, T.; Jetter, A.; Laursen, B.; Singer, A.; Giabbanelli, P.; Kolagani, N.; Basco-Carrera, L.; Jenni, K.; Prell, C.; 2018. Twelve questions for the participatory modeling community.” Earth’s Future 6:1046–1057. 2018EF000841.
  • Zellner, M.; Massey, D.; Minor, E.; Gonzalez-Meler, M.; 2016. Exploring the Effects of Green Infrastructure Placement on Neighborhood-Level Flooding via Spatially Explicit Simulations.” Computers, Environment and Urban Systems 59(2016): 116-128.
  • Zellner, M.L.; Campbell, S.; 2015. Planning for Deep-Rooted Problems: What Can We Learn from Aligning Complex Systems and Wicked Problems?” Planning Theory and Practice 16 (4): 457-478.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Book Chapters

  • Zellner, M.; Campbell, S. D. (2020). Planning with(in) complexity: pathways to extend planning with complex systems modeling.” In Handbook on Planning and Complexity; edited by De Roo, Yamu, and Zuidema, C.; Edward Elgar Publisher, Cheltenham.
  • Zellner, M; Lyons, L.; Milz, D.; Shelley, J.; Hoch, C.; Massey, D.; Radinsky, J.; 2020. Participatory Complex Systems Modeling for Environmental Planning: Opportunities and Barriers to Learning and Policy Innovation.” In Innovations in Collaborative Modeling: Transformations in Higher Education; edited by Porter, Zhao, Schmitt Olabisi, and McNall; Michigan State University Press.
  • Thakuriah, P., Tilahun, N.; Zellner, M.; 2016. Big Data and Urban Informatics: Innovations and Challenges to Urban Planning and Knowledge Discovery.” In Seeing Cities through Big Data: Research Methods and Applications in Urban Informatics, edited by P. Thakuriah, Tilahun, N.; Zellner, M.: Springer.
Community Work
  • MWRD Stormwater Master Planning Member, Advisory Committee, 2018-present
  • Voceros Program, City of Buenos Aires Representative in Chicago, 2017-present
  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
    • Member, Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, 2015-2018
    • Alternate member, Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, 2007-2015
  • Calumet Stormwater Collaborative Advisor to Modeling Group and to Policy and Planning Group, 2014-2020
  • American Planning Association Advisory Committee Member, Incorporating Local Climate Science to Help Communities Plan for Climate Extremes, 2016-2018
Professional Service
  • Co-Chair, Human Dimensions Focus Research Group of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) (2016-present)
  • Elected Executive Committee Member, Network for Computational Modeling for SocioEcological Science (ComSES) (2016-present)
  • Scientific Committee Member, 2021 Ibero-American Symposium on Computational Sociology, Ibero-American Network of Computational Sociology
  • Scientific Committee Member, Agent-Based Modeling Conference 2017

Related Schools & Departments

Moira’s Colleagues

Max Abrahms

Associate Professor of Political Science

Headshot of Amilcar Barreto

Amílcar Antonio Barreto

Professor & Chair, Cultures, Societies, and Global Studies; Professor & Interim Director, International Affairs; Professor, Political Science; Affiliated faculty member of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies; Affiliated faculty member in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Headshot of Barry Bluestone

Barry Bluestone

Russell B. and Andree B. Stearns Trustee Professor Emeritus of Political Economy; Founding Director of the Dukakis Center; Founding Dean of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Headshot of Christopher Bosso

Christopher Bosso

Professor of Public Policy

Headshot of Alan Clayton-Matthews

Alan Clayton-Matthews

Associate Professor Emeritus of Economics and Public Policy

William Dickens

University Distinguished Professor of Economics and Public Policy

Joan Fitzgerald

Joan Fitzgerald

Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Headshot of Steve Flynn

Stephen E. Flynn

Professor of Political Science; Founding Director, Global Resilience Institute

Headshot of James Alan Fox

James Alan Fox

Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy

Headshot of Brian Helmuth

Brian Helmuth

Professor of Environmental Science and Public Policy

Timothy Hoff

Professor of Management, Healthcare Systems and Public Policy

Headshot of Bill Kay

William Kay

Associate Professor of Political Science

Headshot of David Lazer

David Lazer

University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer Sciences, Co-Director of NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks

Headshot of Dietmar Offenhuber

Dietmar Offenhuber

Associate Professor of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Art + Design

Headshot of Kwamina Panford

Kwamina Panford

Associate Professor of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies