Photo of Zellner, Moira

Moira Zellner, Ph.D.

Director, UDVL; Associate Professor, UPP

Urban Data Visualization Laboratory; Urban Planning and Policy


Building & Room:

227 CUPPA Hall, MC 348


412 S. Peoria St., Suite 227

Office Phone Voice:

(312) 996-2149


Moira Zellner joined the Department of Urban Planning and Policy 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 United States, she worked in Argentina as a consultant on environmental issues for local and international environmental engineering firms and for the under secretary 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 on urban air pollution and on the spread of tuberculosis through public transportation.

In the United States, Moira's professional work includes greenway development and river restoration projects in Miami Beach and in California, and transportation surveys. In her position at UIC, she has served as primary investigator and co-investigator for multi-disciplinary projects studying how specific policy, technological, and behavioral changes can effectively address a range of complex social and environmental problems, where interaction effects make responsibilities and burdens unclear. Her research also examines the value of complexity-based modeling for participatory policy exploration and social learning with stakeholders. Moira teaches a variety of workshops on complexity-based modeling of socio-ecological systems, for training of both scientists and decision-makers.

Selected Grants

National Science Foundation CITEAM/REU; UIC Discovery, GCI, IPCE, Participatory Modeling and Planning for Water Management, Principal Investigator

Economic and Social Research Council (EU), Simulating urban social exclusion, Co-Investigator

National Science Foundation, Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research, Farm-level management to landscape-level governance, Co-Investigator

National Science Foundation, Integrated study of natural resources, Co-Investigator

IL Environmental Protection Agency, Green Infrastructure Plan for Illinois, Co-Investigator

Selected Publications

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.


Service to Community

  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning: Member, Environmental and Natural Resources Committee.
  • Calumet Stormwater Collaborative: Member, Advisor to Modeling Group and to Policy and Planning Group.


Professional Leadership

Co-Chair of Human Dimensions Focus Group, Community Surface Dynamics Modeling Syst

Elected Executive Committee Member, ComSES Network

Notable Honors

2009-2010, Great Cities Institute Scholar, Great Cities Institute, UIC

2017, Academic Tech Innovator Award, American Planning Association


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.

Selected Presentations

Zellner, M. L.; “How Effective is Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Management?” Invited speaker to Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Environment and Natural Resources Committee; Chicago, IL, September 2015.

Zellner, M.L.; “Smart Cities: Is it easy to be green?” Invited panelist to the UIC Urban Forum; Chicago, IL; September 2015.

Zellner, M. L.; “Participatory Complex Systems Modeling for Environmental Planning: Opportunities and Barriers to Learning and Policy Innovation.” Plenary speaker, Innovations in Collaborative Modeling; East Lansing, MI; June 2015.

Zellner, M. L.; “Big Data, Big Questions.” Invited panelist to Applied Economics, Regional and Urban Studies Conference (AERUS); Lafayette, IN; April 2015.

Zellner, M. L.; “Overcoming the last-mile problem with transportation and land-use improvements: An agent-based approach.” Invited speaker to NEPA Workshop for Illinois Association of Environmental Professionals; Chicago, IL; November 2014.

Zellner, M. L.; “Applying complexity theory and methods to environmental planning.” Invited speaker to University of Maryland – Baltimore County Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (CUERE) Seminar Series; Baltimore, MD; May 2011.

Zellner, M. L.; “Enhancing participatory resource management and planning: Learning with LUCC-ecological models.” Invited speaker to Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research Training Workshop; Asuncion, Paraguay; April 2011.

Zellner, M. L.; Hoch, C. J.; Welch, E. W.; “Leaping Forward: Building resilience by communicating vulnerability.” Invited speaker at Symposium on Enhancing Resilience To Catastrophic Events Through Communicative Planning; Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; November 2008.

Zellner, M. L.; “Generating policies for sustainable water use: Applications of agent-based modeling to resource and land-use policy.” Invited speaker to International Joint Commission for the Great Lakes Biennial Conference; Chicago, IL; June 2007.

Zellner, M. L.; “Planning With(in) Complexity: Using Agent-Based Models to Cope with Uncertainty in Water Management.” Invited speaker to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Cincinnati, OH; February 2007.

Research Currently in Progress

Participatory Modeling and Planning for Sustainable Water Management (2009-present). In collaboration with Leilah Lyons (Learning Sciences/Computer Science), Charles Hoch (Urban Planning and Policy), and Joshua Radinsky (Curriculum and Instruction/Learning Sciences). Funded by Great Cities Institute ($16,000), Urban Planning and Policy ($30,000), IPCE ($5,000) and Chancellor’s Discovery Fund ($40,000) (UIC), and by NSF CI-TEAM ($249,953).

Simulating the Process of Urban Social Exclusion (2014-present). In collaboration with Nebiyou Tilahun (PI, Urban Planning and Policy), Joe Persky (Economics), and Vonu Thakuriah (University of Glasgow). Funded by ESRC (EU) ($331,538).

From farm-level management to governance of landscapes (2011-present). Climate, water and land use decisions in the plains of Southern South America. In collaboration with Universidad de Buenos Aires, Universidad de San Luis, Instituto Nacional del Agua, Asociación Argentina de Consorcios Regionales de Experimentación Agrícola (AACREA) (Argentina); Universidad Nacional de Asuncion (Paraguay); Universidad de la Republica, Instituto Nacional de Investigacion Agropecuaria (Uruguay); University of Miami, Manhattan College, Argonne National Lab (US). Funded by the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research ($299,723), and by the National Science Foundation ($1,425,000).


Intellectual Property

Author of “CoDMER v. 1 and 2: Collective Decision-Making for Ecological Restoration.” University of Illinois at Chicago. Copyright 2012.

Author of “SOME-GW: Exurban land-use change and groundwater.” University of Illinois at Chicago. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2014.

Author of “L-GrID: Landscape Green Infrastructure Design.” University of Illinois at Chicago. Copyright 2010.

Author of “USAFE: Urban Sustainability Framework for Energy.” University of Illinois at Chicago. Copyright 2007.

Author of “WULUM: Water-Use Land-Use Model.” University of Michigan and University of Illinois at Chicago. Copyright 2008.

Author of “WULUMOD: WULUM – MODFLOW integrated model.” University of Illinois at Chicago. Copyright 2008.