Integrating social and natural science to study coupled human-natural systems, and particularly the interactions of society with the physical environment under conditions of environmental stress.
Research focuses on the coupled dynamics of human and natural systems, specifically in the context of forest dynamics. I utilize a variety of modeling and analysis techniques, including agent-based modeling, cellular automata, machine learning and various spatial statistics and GIS-related methods. I am currently involved in projects that investigate the anthropogenic and biological drivers behind native and invasive forest pathogens and insects.
disaster resilience, flooding, ecosystem services, coupled human natural systems, land use change, hydrology, remote sensing, complexity science
Flood Risk Management, Coupled Human-Natural System Modelling, Socio-hydrological Modelling, Agent-Based Modelling, Human Behaviour Modelling, Agent-Based Social Simulation, Hydrological and Hydraulic Modeling, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Mapping, Risk Modelling and Risk Visualization, Disaster Risk Reduction
My research focuses on building a systemic understanding of coupled human-natural systems. In particular, I am interested in understanding how patterns of land-use and land-cover change emerge from human alterations of natural processes and the resulting feedbacks. Study systems of interest include those undergoing agricultural to urban conversion, typically known as urban sprawl, and those in which protective measures, such as wildfire suppression or flood/storm impact controls, can lead to long-term instability.
Dynamic agent- and process-based simulation models are my primary tools for studying human and natural systems, respectively. My past work includes the creation of dynamic, process-based simulation models of the wildland fires along the urban-wildland interface (UWI), and artificial dune construction to protect coastal development along a barrier island coastline. My current research involves the testing, refinement, extension of an economic agent-based model of coupled housing and land markets (CHALMS), and a new project developing a generalized agent-based model of land-use change to explore local human-environmental interactions globally.
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.
Applications of agent-based modeling to urban and environmental planning
Modeling land use change from smallholder agricultural intensification
Agricultural expansion in the rural tropics brings much needed economic and social development in developing countries. On the other hand, agricultural development can result in the clearing of biologically-diverse and carbon-rich forests. To achieve both development and conservation objectives, many government policies and initiatives support agricultural intensification, especially in smallholdings, as a way to increase crop production without expanding farmlands. However, little is understood regarding how different smallholders might respond to such investments for yield intensification. It is also unclear what factors might influence a smallholder’s land-use decision making process. In this proposed research, I will use a bottom-up approach to evaluate whether investments in yield intensification for smallholder farmers would really translate to sustainable land use in Indonesia. I will do so by combining socioeconomic and GIS data in an agent-based model (Land-Use Dynamic Simulator multi-agent simulation model). The outputs of my research will provide decision makers with new and contextualized information to assist them in designing agricultural policies to suit varying socioeconomic, geographic and environmental contexts.