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Dr Joana Barros

Lecturer in Geographic Information Science

BSc Architecture and Urbanism
MSc Urban and Regional Planning
PhD Planning Studies


  • Joana joined Birkbeck in 2005 after completing her PhD at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). Joana's background is in Architecture and Urban Planning. She holds an MSc in Urban and Regional Planning (UFRGS, Brazil) and a PhD in Planning Studies from University College London. Her areas of expertise are urban planning and modelling, more specifically agent-based and cellular automata models applied to urban systems and urbanisation in developing countries (with focus on Latin America)
  • Joana is also interested in the use of technology for teaching and learning. She has held the role of Technology Enhanced Learning Champions for Birkbeck between 2011 and 2014 and is involved in a number of projects in this area of expertise.

Research Interests

  • Joana’s main research field is urban modelling and simulation. Her research has focused on the dynamics of urban growth and inner-city transformation in Latin American cities, with emphasis on the socio-economic composition of the urban society in these countries and its impacts on urban space, and vice-versa. Her work explores urban morphology, spatial patterns, locational dynamics and social issues. Her research interests also include computational models and quantitative techniques that support a better understanding of urban and environmental spatial processes. She is particularly interested in the application of models for urban geography with expertise on agent-based and cellular automata models. Her commitment to studying the dynamics of change and growth in cities is based on the belief that an understanding of these processes is an essential basis for improving planning actions and interventions, as well as for supporting urban policy development.


  • Joana currently teaches the following modules:
    • Principles of Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) – undergraduate level 6 optional module
    • Modelling for Geographic Phenomena (MGP) – MSc level 7 module
    • Urbanisation in Developing Countries (UDC) - undergraduate level 5 module
  • Joana is interested in supervising PhD students on the following topics:
    • Urban development in developing countries (spatial change, urban growth, slum formation and transformation as well as some housing issues). Particular interest in urban change and growth in Latin American cities.
    • Application of mapping and quantitative analysis for urban issues in developing countries.
    • Computational models of geographical systems: particular interest in agent-based and cellular automata models of urban systems.

PhD/MPhil Supervision

  • Current PhD Students:
    • Iain Willis
      Thesis title: "The application of multivariate cluster analysis in the assessment of volcanic social vulnerability"
    • Jacobus van Rooyan
      Thesis title: “Urban Development of the South African City: An agent-based modelling assessment of persistent segregation in the City of Cape Town”
    • Marcus Saraiva
      Thesis title: “Simulating urban growth using accessibility measures in Brazil”


    • 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

      Recent conference papers
    • Barros, J. (2014). Introducing GIS: a matter of level or experience? RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014, London, UK.
    • Barros, J. (2014) Location-based studies of slums: should we bother? AAG Annual Conference 2014, Tampa, Florida, US.
    • Cantergiani, C.; Barros, J.; Delgado, M. G. (2014) How real estate agents behaviour affects urban growth: an agent-based model approach. Social Simulation Conference (SSC2014), Barcelona, Spain.
    • Havemann, L., Drew, L., Barros, J. and Leal, J. (2013) Special blend: developing a model for technology-enhanced, flexible learning. In: Can We Do It? Yes We Can: HEA/SEEC Conference 2013, 22-23 Jul 2013, London, UK.
    • Fligg, R. and Barros, J. (2013) 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. IGU Conference 2013 - Applied GIS and Spatial Modelling: Leeds, UK.
    • Walker, L. and Barros, J. (2012), An Agent-Based Population Model for Wolverhampton, UK: a spatio-temporal activity based approach to population modelling. GISRUK 2012: Lancaster University, UK.
    • De Alba, H. and Barros, J. (2012), Deforestation in the Kayabi Indigenous Territory: Simulating and Predicting Land Use and Land Cover Change in the Brazilian Amazon. GISRUK 2012: Lancaster University.
    • De Alba, H. and Barros, J. (2012), Deforestación en el territorío indígena Kayabi: Simulación and predicción de cambio en la cobertura y uso de suelo en el Amazonas Brasileno. III Coloquio Internacional en Geografia Ambiental. Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.
    • Rains, T. and Barros, J. (2011), Wayfinding and Visitor Tracking in Museums:
    • Accuracy assessments of Hybrid Positioning Services. International Symposium on Spatio-Temporal Analysis and Data Mining: University of London.
    • Mitchell, B. and Barros, J. (2011) Managing Dutch elm disease: an agent-based modelling approach. International Symposium on Spatio-Temporal Analysis and Data Mining: University of London.
    • Markovic, D. and Barros, J. (2011) Integrating Repast and Google Earth: framework, prototype and testing. Geocomputation 2011: University of London.
    • Mitchell, B., Barros, J. and Wendel, D. (2010), "Identifying Dutch elm disease ‘danger-spots’ on the Isle of Man: an agent-based model approach. GISRUK 2010: University College London.
    • Willis, I., Barros, J., Gibin, M. and Webber, R. (2010), The application of geodemographics to social vulnerability and volcanic hazard assessment. GISRUK 2010: University College London.
    • Pottage, S., Barros, J., Nixon, J. and Cannell, A. (2010), “The Isolated State”: an ABM approach to the Von Thünen Model. GISRUK 2010: University College London.

Professional Membership

    • Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society with IBG
    • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
    • Fellow of the Association for Geographic Information (AGI)
    • Committee member of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) Geographical Information Science Research Group (GIScRG)

Contact details

+ 44 (0)20 3073 8443