Associate Professor Marilu Melo Zurita

Associate Professor Marilu Melo Zurita

Associate Professor

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,
    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 | 2023
    Agwor A; Melo Zurita M; Munro P, 2023, 'Underground Urbanism in Africa: splintered subterranean space in Lagos, Nigeria', Urban Studies: an international journal for research in urban studies,
    Journal articles | 2023
    Briggs NC; Buckley J; Chesworth D; Coyne T; Farr A; Harper L; Ho X; Heyns AL; Leber S; Melo Zurita MDL; Raby O, 2023, 'Listen - Look up! Listen - Look down! Experiencing the counter-city through a sonic and augmented reality experience of urban undergrounds in southeast Melbourne', Cities, 142,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Cook BR; Cornes I; Satizábal P; Melo Zurita MDL, 2022, 'Experiential learning, practices, and space for change: The institutional preconfiguration of community participation in flood risk reduction', Journal of Flood Risk Management,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Naserisafavi N; Coyne T; Melo Zurita MDL; Zhang K; Prodanovic V, 2022, 'Community values on governing urban water nature-based solutions in Sydney, Australia', Journal of Environmental Management, 322,
    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,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Satizabal P; Melo Zurita M, 2022, 'Bodies-holding-bodies: The trembling of women’s territorio-cuerpo-tierra and the feminist responses to the earthquakes in Mexico City', Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal,
    Journal articles | 2022
    Satizábal P; Cornes I; Melo Zurita MDL; Cook BR, 2022, 'The power of connection: Navigating the constraints of community engagement for disaster risk reduction', International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 68, pp. 102699 - 102699,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Melo Zurita M, 2021, 'Core Beliefs: the underground is full of stories and structures', Architectural Review, 1480, pp. 6 - 12,
    Journal articles | 2021
    Melo Zurita M, 2021, 'Urban Underground Integration: an invitation', Herrenknecht Magazine, pp. 20 - 20
    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, 2, pp. 364 - 382,
    Journal articles | 2020
    Garrett B; Melo Zurita MDL; Iveson K, 2020, 'Boring cities: The privatisation of subterranea', City, 24, pp. 276 - 285,
    Journal articles | 2020
    Melo Zurita MDL, 2020, 'Challenging sub terra nullius: a critical underground urbanism project', Australian Geographer, 51, pp. 269 - 282,
    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, 79,
    Journal articles | 2020
    Ruming K; Melo Zurita MDL, 2020, 'Care and dispossession: Contradictory practices and outcomes of care in forced public housing relocations', Cities, 98,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Cook BR; Melo Zurita MDL, 2019, 'Fulfilling the promise of participation by not resuscitating the deficit model', Global Environmental Change, 56, pp. 56 - 65,
    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, 34, pp. 52 - 57,
    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, 34, pp. 1262 - 1262,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Melo Zurita MDL; Munro PG, 2019, 'Voluminous territorialisation: Historical contestations over the Yucatan Peninsula’s subterranean waterscape', Geoforum, 102, pp. 38 - 47,
    Journal articles | 2019
    Melo Zurita MDL, 2019, 'Holes, subterranean exploration and affect in the Yucatan Peninsula', Emotion, Space and Society, 32,
    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, 42, pp. 471 - 589,
    Journal articles | 2018
    Melo Zurita M; Munro PG; Houston D, 2018, 'Un-earthing the Subterranean Anthropocene', Area, 50, pp. 298 - 305,
    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), 10,
    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, 28, pp. 67 - 81,
    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, 36, pp. 1068 - 1087,
    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, 5, pp. 481 - 481,
    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, 19, pp. 265 - 272,
    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, 29, pp. 696 - 710,
    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, 25, pp. 386 - 398,
    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, 65, pp. 170 - 178,
    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, 17, pp. 583 - 612,
    Journal articles | 2009
    Munro PG; Melo Zurita M, 2009, 'Aprendiendo del pasado: Impactos históricos de intervenciones en la agricultura de Sierra Leona', Ecología Política, 38, pp. 92 - 95
  • Reports | 2022
    Agrawal M; Melo Zurita M; Paraskevopoulou C; Admiraal H; Cornaro A; Gupta A, 2022, Underground urbanism: reimagining the role of underground spaces for India’s urban future., National Institute of Disaster Management, Delhi
    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,
    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,
    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,
    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; 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 | 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 | 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 | 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 | 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

  • A Baker, M Shanafield, W Timms M Melo Zurita and M Andersen “National groundwater recharge observing system Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities Program, Australian Research Council (ARC). 2022 AU$158,845.
  • A Thorpe, M Melo Zurita, D Kellermann and T Loughland “Using Artificial Intelligence for Accessibility (and Good): enabling democratic participation for marginalised groups to disrupt the current politics of the Greater Western Sydney development” Sustainable Development Reform Hub @UNSW. 2022. AU$19,373 
  • T Coyne and M Melo Zurita, “The subterranean turn in Australian geographies” Geographical Society of New South Wales (GSNSW). Symposium Funding Scheme. 2021-2022. AU$4,800
  • M Melo Zurita, V Prodanovic, N Sale, C F Matos, Beth Salt, Marion Huxley, “Culturally Inclusive Water Urban Design – addressing the gap between water infrastructure and water literacy” Sydney Water Community Water Literacy Grants. 2021-2022. AU$10,000
  • B Martin, C Briggs, N Bertram, L Harper, M Melo Zurita, C Murphy, S Faulkhead, and R Coleman, “Repairing memory and place: An Indigenous-led, practice-based approach to urban water design” Linkage Program, Australian Research Council (ARC). 2022-2025. AU$260,000
  • J Norman, G Baeten, L Melgaco Silva Marques, M Melo Zurita, F Mossmark, V Svahn; T Soderquvist, O Sandstrom, and Y Volchko UNDER: Geosystem services underneath for sustainable communities and improved spatial planning practices” Stage 2 collaborative grant, Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS). 2021-2024. (8,000,000 SEK). AU$1.23 million.
  •  L Harper, M Melo Zurita and T Chandler “The Rippon Lea Water Story.” The National Trust of Australia Grant. 2021-2022.
  • A Casals, M Melo Zurita and V Ramasar, Digitally advancing early career researchers: From methods to leadership in research.” Universitas 21 (U21) Researcher Resilience Fund, 2020-2021. (US$5,000) AU$7,500.
  • J Norman, G Baeten, M Melo Zurita, F Mossmark, V Svahn; T Soderquvist, O Sandstrom, L Melgaco Silva Marques, Y Volchko “Social values and the consequences of integrating geosystems services into urban subsurface planning”. Stage 1 collaborative grant, Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS). 2020-2021. (298,400 SEK) AU$47,000.
  • K Iveson, M Melo Zurita, S Webber Common Infrastructures” Urban Geography’s Workshop Award (US$2,000). 2019-2020. AU$2750. .
  • M Melo Zurita, Public perspectives of Water Infrastructure along the Georges River, Georges Riverkeeper Sydney. 2019-2021 AU$16,000.
  • K Iveson, M Melo Zurita, S Webber Common Infrastructures” Geographical Society of New South Wales (GSNSW). Symposium Funding Scheme. 2019-2020. AU$5,000.
  • S Hawken, M Melo Zurita, K Zhang and S Sepasgozar. Cross Faculty Urban Lab for Urban Water Resilience, University of New South Wales. 2018-2019; AU$12,000.

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 Geography, and Australian Geographer, and is an active member of Australian 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.