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Dr Joana Barros

Senior Lecturer in Geographic Information Science

Architecture and Urbanism (UG professional degree)
Masters in Urban and Regional Planning
PhD Planning Studies


Joana Barros is an urban planner and geographic information scientist interested in applying geographic information data, tools and technologies to improve the understanding of urban inequalities and promote social justice. While her research has mainly focused on urban issues in Latin American and more particularly Brazilian cities, her research interests also include other cities in the Global South as well as comparative studies with cities in the Global North. The main themes of her research are: segregation, urban growth and change, informal settlements, and transport. She is committed to applying geospatial data and geotechnologies to improve our understanding of social inequalities in urban space as well as to develop tools that both inform and guide practitioners in the development of urban policies and interventions.
Joana holds a PhD in Planning Studies from the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), University College London (UCL), a Masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil, and a professional degree in Architecture and Urbanism from the Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel) in Brazil.

Current Research

  • Joana’s areas of expertise lie in urban planning and geographic information science, more specifically spatial analysis and dynamic modelling techniques applied to urban systems.
  • Her recently completed research project entitled RESOLUTION (Resilient Systems for Land Use and Transportation) looked into the interplay between transport accessibility and socio-spatial inequalities in the metropolitan areas of two megacities, London and São Paulo, and, thus, had a strong comparative focus. The project, funded by ESRC and FAPESP (Brazil) was a collaboration between Birkbeck, the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA, UCL), the University of São Paulo (USP), the Federal University of ABC (UFABC) and the Brazilian National Institute for Spatial Research (INPE).
  • Together with colleagues from UK (UCL, KCL), Netherlands and China, Joana has been recently awarded funding for the SIMETRI Project - SustaInable Mobility and Equality in mega-ciTy RegIons: patterns, mechanisms and governance,  which starts in March 2019. The project is funded by the ESRC in the UK, NWO in the Netherlands and NF in China.


  • Joana currently teaches the following modules:
    • Principles of Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) – undergraduate level 5 and 6 optional module
    • Spatial Simulation Modelling (SSM) – MSc level 7 module

PhD/MPhil Supervision

  • Joana is interested in supervising PhD students on the following topics:
    • Urban development in the Global South (spatial change, urban growth, slum formation and transformation,  segregation and transport inequalities).
    • Application of mapping and spatial analysis for exploring issues of urban inequality such as spatial segregation and transport justice in both Global South and North.
    • Computational models of geographical systems: particular interest in agent-based and cellular automata models of urban systems.



    • Barros, J. and Feitosa, F. (2018) Uneven Geographies: Exploring the sensitivity of spatial indices of residential segregation. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 45 (6) 1073-1089. DOI: 10.1177/2399808318760572
    • De Araujo, A.; Barros, J. and Queiroz, A. (2018) Segregação Urbana: Abordagem dos Índices Sociais Globais e Locais. Revista do Departamento de Geografia, Universidade de São Paulo, 1-14. DOI: 10.11606/rdg.v0ispe.144092
    • Barros, J. (2017) Introducing GIS across levels: designing for diversity. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 41 (3) 353-367.  doi: 10.1080/03098265.2017.1331207
    • Barreira-González P. and Barros J. (2017) Configuring the neighbourhood effect in irregular cellular automata based models. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 31 (3) 617-636. doi: 10.1080/13658816.2016.1219035
    • De Alba, H. and Barros, J. (2017, in press) Deforestación en el territorio indígena Kayabi: Simulación y predicción de cambio en la cobertura y uso de suelo en el Amazonas Brasileño. In: Evaluación de tierras para objetivos y escalas múltiples, Francisco Bautista, Manuel Mendoza and Gerardo Bocco (editors), UNAM (Universidad Naciona Autónoma de México).
    • Fligg, R. and Barros, J. (2017) “Exploring Human Behaviour using Agent-Based Modelling, Neural Networks and Land Use/Land Cover (LU/LC): A case study of Flooding in the Limpopo River Basin, Xai-Xai, Mozambique”. In: Applied Spatial Modelling and Planning, Lombard, J., Clarke, G. and Stern, E. (editors), Routledge.
    • Barros, J. and Batty, M. (2016) “Acessivel Para Quem? Como o Transporte Divide Ricos e Pobres na Cidade Brasileira” [Translation: Accessible to who? How transport divides the rich and the poor in the Brazilian city]. BBC Brazil, published on 14th October 2016. Available at
    • Kuffer, M., Barros, J. and Sliuzas, Richard (2014) The development of a morphological unplanned settlement index using very-high-resolution (VHR) imagery. Computer Environment and Urban Planning, 48 (November):138–52. DOI:10.1016/j.compenvurbsys.2014.07.012.
    • Willis, I, Gibin, M., Barros, J. & Webber, R. (2014) "Applying neighbourhood classification systems to natural hazards: a case study of Mt Vesuvius." Natural Hazards 70(1): 1-22. DOI: 10.1007/s11069-010-9648-9
    • Barros, J. (2012) Exploring Urban Dynamics in Latin American cities using an agent-based simulation approach. In: Agent-based Models of Geographical Systems, Michael Batty, Alison Heppenstall and Andrew Crooks (editors), Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-90-481-8927-4_28
    • Kuffer, M., and Barros, J. (2011). Urban Morphology of Unplanned Settlements: The Use of Spatial Metrics in VHR Remotely Sensed Images. Procedia Environmental Sciences, 7, 152-157. DOI: 10.1016/j.proenv.2011.07.027
    • Lizarazo, Ivan, and Joana Barros. (2010). Fuzzy Image Segmentation for Urban Land-Cover Classification. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 76 (2): 151–62. DOI:10.14358/PERS.76.2.151.
    • Lizarazo I. & Barros J. (2008). Fuzzy image segmentation for urban land-cover classification. GEOBIA 2008: Pixels, Object, Intelligence. Calgary (Canada).
    • Barros, J. & Sobreira, F, (2008) City of Slums: Self-Organisation across Scales, in Minai, A. and Bar-Yam, Y., eds, Unifying Themes in Complex Systems IV: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Complex Systems, Springer & NECSI, Berlin. pages 265-273 DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-73849-7_30
    • Batty, M., Barros, J. & Alves Jr, S. (2006) Cities: continuity, transformation and emergence, in E. Garnsey and J. McGlade, eds, Complexity and Co-Evolution: Continuity and Change in Socio-Economic Systems, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK.
    • Batty, M., Barros, J. & Alves Jr, S. (2005) The Dynamics of Cities, in A. Bruzzo and S. Occelli, eds, Le Relazioni Tra Conoscenza Ed Innovazione Nello Sviluppo Dei Territori, Franco Angeli, Milan.
    • Barros, J. (2004), Simulating Urban Dynamics in Latin American Cities, in Atkinson, P. M., et al., eds, Geodynamics, CRC Press, New York.
    • Barros, J. & Alves Jr., S. (2003), Simulating Rapid Urbanisation in Latin American Cities, in Longley, P. and Batty, M., eds, Advanced Spatial Analysis: The Casa Book of GIS, ESRI Press, London.
    • Barros, J (2004), Urban growth in Latin American cities: exploring urban dynamics through agent-based simulation. Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of London, London.
    • Batty, M., Barros, J. & Alves Jr, S. (2004), Cities: Continuity, Transformation, and Emergence. CASA Working Papers Series, available online at
    • Barros, J. & Sobreira, F. (2002), City of Slums: Self-Organisation across Scales. CASA Working Papers Series, available online at

Professional Membership

    • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG
    • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


    • Birkbeck Excellence in Teaching Award (BETA) in 2016. Step Up into Postgraduate Studies in Arts Project. In collaboration with Leo Havemman, Joanne Leal, and Liz Drew.

Contact details

+ 44 (0)20 3073 8443