Dr Marilu Melo Zurita
Senior Lecturer

Dr Marilu Melo Zurita

PhD in Human Geography, Kings College London.

MA in Urban Studies and the Environment, El Colegio de Mexico.

BA (hons) in Cultural Anthropology, Universidad de Las Americas Puebla.

Arts,Design & Architecture
School of Humanities & Languages

Dr Marilu Melo is part of the Environment and Society Group the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. With a disciplinary background in human geography and cultural anthropology, her research has explored the fields of social housing relocation projects, peri-urban disaster management, water governance and volumetric urbanism.

Marilu’s current research interest is focused on subterranean spaces, expanding geographical scholarship into a volume ontology, by excavating past, present and future material transformations and geosocial agencies of the underground. This includes a project focus on the political economy of tunneling: how the underground has emerged as a significant site for urban development, thus presenting a pressing need to understand its imaginaries, conceptualisations and challenges from a critical urban perspective.

Marilu is also a lead member of the Community Engagement for Disaster Risk Reduction (CEDRR) initiative, a collaboration with the University of Melbourne and emergency service agencies to develop new methodologies to engage the publics in disaster preparation and mitigation. This work has been informed by her case study research on disasters, which has included projects focused on the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria, the 2010-11 South-East Queensland Floods, and the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City.

Prior to her position at UNSW, Marilu has held a variety of teaching and research positions at the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and the University of Melbourne.

9385 2970
361 Morven Brown
  • Books | 2018
    Betteridge B; Chatterjee P; Emmanuel L; Fairall A; Garrett B; Graff M; Iveson K; Legg R; Maalsen S; Melo Zurita MDL; Murray W; Pill M; Rogers D; Sadowski J; Sisson A; Tattersall A; Webber S, 2018, Sydney - We Need to Talk!.
  • Book Chapters | 2018
    Melo Zurita M; Sadowski J, 2018, 'DIMENSIONS: Sydney X Mexico X Phoenix', in Urban C (ed.), Sydney – We Need to Talk, Piscator Press, University of Sydney, pp. 22 - 22, http://unsworks.unsw.edu.au/fapi/datastream/unsworks:54937/bin42aabc3c-ce73-4c43-8ac6-26fe373325c5?view=true&xy=01
    Book Chapters | 2012
    Melo Zurita M, 2012, 'La tierra el pretexto, los recursos naturales el motivo: El caso de la mercantilización de la naturaleza mediante dos estudios de caso en México', in Macip Ríos RF (ed.), Al que a buen árbol se arrima, buena sombra le cobija: Deslindando prácticas, símbolos y realidades con Robert D. Shadow, BUAP, pp. 121 - 144
  • Journal articles | 2022
    Ruming K; Melo Zurita MDL, 2022, 'Care, urban regeneration and forced tenant relocation: the case of Ivanhoe social housing estate, Sydney', Housing Studies, pp. 1 - 19, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02673037.2022.2084046
    Journal articles | 2021
    Melo Zurita M, 2021, 'Core Beliefs: the underground is full of stories and structures', Architectural Review, vol. 1480, pp. 6 - 12, https://www.architectural-review.com/essays/ecology/core-beliefs-the-underground-is-full-of-stories-and-structures
    Journal articles | 2021
    Melo Zurita M, 2021, 'Urban Underground Integration: an invitation', Herrenknecht Magazine, pp. 20 - 20
    Journal articles | 2021
    Satizábal P; Cornes I; Melo Zurita MDL; Cook BR, 2021, 'The power of connection: Navigating the constraints of community engagement for disaster risk reduction', International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, pp. 102699 - 102699, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2021.102699
    Journal articles | 2020
    Coyne T; Melo Zurita MDL; Reid D; Prodanovic V, 2020, 'Culturally inclusive water urban design: a critical history of hydrosocial infrastructures in Southern Sydney, Australia', Blue-Green Systems, vol. 2, pp. 364 - 382, http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/bgs.2020.017
    Journal articles | 2020
    Garrett B; Melo Zurita MDL; Iveson K, 2020, 'Boring cities: The privatisation of subterranea', City, vol. 24, pp. 276 - 285, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2020.1739455
    Journal articles | 2020
    Melo Zurita MDL, 2020, 'Challenging sub terra nullius: a critical underground urbanism project', Australian Geographer, vol. 51, pp. 269 - 282, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049182.2020.1723829
    Journal articles | 2020
    Pérez MA; Melo Zurita MDL, 2020, 'Underground exploration beyond state reach: Alternative volumetric territorial projects in Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico', Political Geography, vol. 79, pp. 102144 - 102144, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2019.102144
    Journal articles | 2020
    Ruming K; Melo Zurita MDL, 2020, 'Care and dispossession: Contradictory practices and outcomes of care in forced public housing relocations', Cities, vol. 98, pp. 102572 - 102572, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2019.102572
    Journal articles | 2019
    Cook BR; Melo Zurita MDL, 2019, 'Fulfilling the promise of participation by not resuscitating the deficit model', Global Environmental Change, vol. 56, pp. 56 - 65, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.03.001
    Journal articles | 2019
    Cornes I; Cook B; Satizábal P; Melo Zurita M, 2019, '‘(In)action’: rethinking traditional understandings of disaster risk reduction', Australian Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 34, pp. 52 - 57, https://knowledge.aidr.org.au/resources/ajem-january-2019/
    Journal articles | 2019
    Melo Zurita M; Ruming K, 2019, '‘From Choice to Chance’: choice-based letting use in forced tenant relocations in New South Wales, Australia', Housing Studies, vol. 34, pp. 1262 - 1262, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02673037.2018.1531112
    Journal articles | 2019
    Melo Zurita MDL, 2019, 'Holes, subterranean exploration and affect in the Yucatan Peninsula', Emotion, Space and Society, vol. 32, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.emospa.2019.100584
    Journal articles | 2019
    Melo Zurita MDL; Munro PG, 2019, 'Voluminous territorialisation: Historical contestations over the Yucatan Peninsula’s subterranean waterscape', Geoforum, vol. 102, pp. 38 - 47, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.03.019
    Journal articles | 2018
    Melo Zurita M; Cook B; Thomsen DC; Munro PG; Smith TF; Gallina J, 2018, 'Living with disasters: social capital for disaster governance', Disasters, vol. 42, pp. 471 - 589, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/disa.12257
    Journal articles | 2018
    Melo Zurita M; Munro PG; Houston D, 2018, 'Un-earthing the Subterranean Anthropocene', Area, vol. 50, pp. 298 - 305, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/area.12369
    Journal articles | 2018
    Melo Zurita M; Thomsen DC; Holbrook NJ; Smith TF; Lyth A; Munro PG; de Bruin A; Seddaiu G; Roggero PP; Baird J; Plummer R; Bullock R; Collins K; Powell N, 2018, 'Global water governance and Climate Change: Identifying innovative arrangements for adaptive transformation', Water (Switzerland), vol. 10, http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/w10010029
    Journal articles | 2018
    Plummer R; Baird J; Bullock R; Dzyundzyak A; Dupont D; Gerger Swartling Å; Johannessen Å; Huitema D; Lyth A; Melo Zurita M; Munaretto S; Smith T; Thomsen D, 2018, 'Flood Governance: A multiple country comparison of stakeholder perceptions and aspirations', Environmental Policy and Governance, vol. 28, pp. 67 - 81, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eet.1796
    Journal articles | 2018
    Plummer R; Renzetti S; Bullock R; Melo Zurita MDL; Baird J; Dupont D; Smith T; Thomsen D, 2018, 'The roles of capitals in building capacity to address urban flooding in the shift to a new water management approach', Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, vol. 36, pp. 1068 - 1087, http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2399654417732576
    Journal articles | 2018
    Silva Ontiveros L; Munro PG; Melo Zurita M, 2018, 'Proyectos de Muerte: Energy justice conflicts on Mexico’s unconventional gas frontier', Extractive Industries and Society, vol. 5, pp. 481 - 481, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exis.2018.06.010
    Journal articles | 2016
    Cook BR; Melo Zurita MDL, 2016, 'Planning to learn: an insurgency for disaster risk reduction (DRR)', International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, vol. 19, pp. 265 - 272, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2016.08.022
    Journal articles | 2016
    de Rijke K; Munro P; Melo Zurita MDL, 2016, 'The Great Artesian Basin: A Contested Resource Environment of Subterranean Water and Coal Seam Gas in Australia', Society and Natural Resources, vol. 29, pp. 696 - 710, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2015.1122133
    Journal articles | 2015
    Melo Zurita MDL; Cook B; Harms L; March A, 2015, 'Towards New Disaster Governance: Subsidiarity as a Critical Tool', Environmental Policy and Governance, vol. 25, pp. 386 - 398, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/eet.1681
    Journal articles | 2015
    Melo Zurita MDL; Thomsen DC; Smith TF; Lyth A; Preston BL; Baum S, 2015, 'Reframing water: Contesting H2O within the European Union', Geoforum, vol. 65, pp. 170 - 178, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2015.07.022
    Journal articles | 2011
    Munro PG; Melo Zurita MDL, 2011, 'The Role of Cenotes in the Social History of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula', Environment and History, vol. 17, pp. 583 - 612, http://dx.doi.org/10.3197/096734011X13150366551616
    Journal articles | 2009
    Munro PG; Melo Zurita M, 2009, 'Aprendiendo del pasado: Impactos históricos de intervenciones en la agricultura de Sierra Leona', Ecología Política, vol. 38, pp. 92 - 95
  • Reports | 2021
    Svahn V; Norrman J; Melgaço, L; Sandström O; Volchko Y; Mossmark F; Melo Zurita M, 2021, Societal values and consequences of integrating geosystem services into subsurface planning Results from research project funded by the call Planning for transformation, Stage 1, Chalmers University of Technology, http://dx.doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.27012.96649
    Conference Papers | 2021
    Von der Tann L; Metje N; Collins B; Melo Zurita M, 2021, 'A perspective on the governance of London's subsurface', in IOP Conference Series : Earth and Environmental Science, IOP Publishing, Helsinki, Finland, pp. 012020 - 012020, presented at 17th World Conference ACUUS 2020 February 3-4 2021, (Helsinki, Finland) Virtual Conference, Helsinki, Finland, 03 February 2021 - 04 February 2021, http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/703/1/012020
    Conference Presentations | 2020
    Chatterjee P; Melo Zurita M, 2020, 'The Road through the City – Unaccounted Property, Benefits and Values in Compulsory Acquisition', presented at Legal Geography Symposium, University of Sydney, 24 February 2020
    Conference Presentations | 2019
    Melo Zurita M, 2019, 'Challenging Sub Terra Nullius: a critical underground urbanism project', presented at Institue of Australian Geographers (IAG) conference, Hobart, 09 July 2019 - 13 July 2019
    Reports | 2019
    Pawson H; Martin C; van den Nouwelant R; Milligan V; Ruming K; Melo Zurita MDL, 2019, Build-to-Rent in Australia: product feasibility and potential affordable housing contribution, Landcom NSW, Sydney, https://cityfutures.be.unsw.edu.au/documents/551/LCOM_0000_Build_to_Rent_Report_WEB_July_2019.pdf
    Conference Presentations | 2018
    Cornes I; Cook B; Satizabal P; Melo Zurita M, 2018, 'What is ‘(in)action’? Rethinking traditional understandings of disaster risk reduction in urban households', presented at The Annual Conference of AFAC and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards, Perth, 05 September 2018
    Reports | 2018
    Hutchinson J; McPherson J; Melo Zurita M; Ruskin J, 2018, Internships Project: Partner Perspectives,, Professional and Community Engagement (PACE), Macquarie University
    Conference Presentations | 2018
    Melo Zurita M, 2018, 'The Geopolitics of Urban Tunnelling', presented at New Zealand Geographical Society / Institute of Australian Geographers conference,, Auckland, 11 July 2018 - 14 July 2018
    Conference Presentations | 2018
    Melo Zurita M, 2018, 'The Subterranean Geopolitics of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula', presented at Association of American Geographers Conference, New Orleans, 10 April 2018 - 14 April 2018
    Conference Presentations | 2018
    Melo Zurita M; Ruming K, 2018, 'From Choice to Chance”: examining the choice-based letting system for tenant relocation in NSW', presented at State of Australian Cities Conference, Adelaide, 28 November 2018 - 30 November 2018
    Conference Presentations | 2017
    Melo Zurita M, 2017, 'Roles, responsibilities and emotions – negotiating the politics of forced social housing relocations in Sydney', presented at Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) conference, Brisbane, 11 July 2017 - 14 July 2017
    Conference Presentations | 2017
    Melo Zurita M; Munro PG, 2017, 'The Subterranean Protagonist: Colonisation, water and the underground in Mexico', presented at Association of American Geographers Conference, Boston, 05 April 2017 - 09 April 2017
    Conference Presentations | 2016
    Melo Zurita MDL, 2016, 'A Journey into the Subterranean Anthropocene', presented at Global Ecologies – Local Impacts Conference,, Sydney Environment Institute: University of Sydney, 23 November 2016 - 25 November 2016
    Conference Presentations | 2016
    Munro P; Melo Zurita M, 2016, 'Exploring, Constructing and Commodifying the Underground: An environmental history of cave diving in the Yucatan Peninsula', presented at Environmental History and its Publics, American Society for Environmental History Conference, Seattle, 30 March 2016 - 03 April 2016
    Conference Presentations | 2010
    Munro P; Melo Zurita M, 2010, 'The Role of Water? Henequen, Chicle and the Caste War on the Yucatan Peninsula; 1800 to 1950', presented at Mexico: Revolution, Independence and Beyond Conference 2010, Australian National University: Canberra, 05 July 2010 - 06 July 2010

2020  Vice Chancellor’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, University of New South Wales

2020  David G Stead Award for Best Paper by an Early Career Researcher, Geographical Society of New South Wales (GSNSW).

2019  Deans Award for best designed course, University of New South Wales


Marilu is an editorial board member for the journals Political GeographyAustralian Geographer and  Environmental Hazards, and is an active member of Australasian Tunneling Society (ATS), the Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG), and the Geographical Society of New South Wales.

Through the Community Engagement for Disaster Risk Reduction (CEDRR) initiative, Marilu has been working in collaboration with the Victorian State Emergency Services (SES), Australian Red Cross and Melbourne Water, to implement a survey instrument that assesses household preparedness for disasters. The project has so far been piloted in the north-east of Melbourne in an area that was heavily affected by the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Between 2013 and 2016, Marilu worked as a key researcher in the Stockholm Environment Institute led “Climate Change Adaptation and Water Governance” (CADWAGO) project that focused on informing European Union policy in the areas of energy, water and climate change. CADWAGO involved 30 researchers from 10 different academic institutions across Australia, North America and Europe, and notably used “learning event” workshops that facilitated interaction between academics and EU policy-makers to produce collaborative and innovative responses to environmental dilemmas in the European Union.

Marilu is the course convener for the subjects ARTS1240 “Environment and Society” and ARTS2248 “Disasters and Society” which form part of the Environmental Humanities undergraduate major. She also gives guest lecturers for the Master of Environmental Management program.

Marilu is currently the secondary supervisor for two students who are completing their PhDs in geography at the University of Sydney:

  • Pratichi Chatterjee - "Urban Transitions: redevelopment, gentrification and changing people-place relations"
  • Elizabeth Duncan - "Verticality and Volumes in Motion: the cumulative trajectories of waste in a finite plane"