Dr Yan Liu is a Human Geographer specialising in Geographical Informational Science (GIS), spatial analysis and modelling. She has over fifteen years’ experience in the development and application of cellular automata (CA) based urban modelling to describe, understand, model and predict urban and human change dynamics and processes. She has also developed spatial analytical approaches and models to address a range of social geographical issues including disadvantage and social inclusion, access to resources and services, human travel behaviours and their interactions with the built environment.

Yan’s research on urban modelling based on complex systems theory and geo-simulation addresses a significant issue in relation to understanding and predicting urban growth. This is an important and rapidly evolving field which has emerged in the past two decades to study the coupled natural and human systems, their spatial evolution and temporal change mechanisms and dynamics. Methodologically, Yan’s research has contributed to advance urban modelling by developing fuzzy constrained CA approach and engaging in systematic calibration of CA urban models using both statistical and intelligent optimisation approaches. The book she published in 2008 was highly cited and reviewed by Professor Michael Batty (published in The Photogrammetric Record, 25(131): 320-323) and Professor Fulong Wu (published in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 36(6), 1129-1130). Yan’s CA-based urban modelling approaches have been applied to various geographical and social contexts, including Australia (Sydney, Brisbane and the Moreton Bay Region), China (Shanghai and Ningbo) and Indonesia (Jakarta Metropolitan Region). She has also collaborated with other researchers to model and assess other environment and human change processes and interactions, including the development of a predictive model for archaeological sites and cultural landscapes in the Pilbara region in West Australia (funded by Rio Tinto in 2011), koala disease analysis and conservation modelling (funded by the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Resource Management), and modelling the impact of sea-level rise on urban and the coastal environment in the Moreton Bay Region in Australia (published in Conservation Letters DOI: 10.1111/conl.12213).

Dr Liu has also developed various GIS based analytical and modelling approaches in the study of social geographical problems. She has developed spatial accessibility models to evaluate the equality of access to primary health services by the baby boomers in Singapore, the geography of primary health care delivery and services in Queensland, as well as the spatial disparity in the private rental housing market in Southeast Queensland. She is conducting research on human travel behaviours and their interactions with the built environment using travel survey and smart card data to address issues on urban land use intensity, accessibility, affordability and equality amongst different commuter groups. The research outcomes will have significant impact on transport policy, urban planning as well as social justice and inclusion.

Most recently, Yan is a part of a UQ team on an ARC Discovery grant to study the nature, causes and outcomes of problems between neighbours. In this project Yan is developing a spatial data mining and analytical approach to address this important social and geographical issue with regard to neighbourhood problems using a large scale administrative database of neighbour complaints and other spatial and non-spatial data. She is also collaborating with UQ colleagues in Health and Behavioural Sciences to work on projects to map smoke cessation medicine (SCM) use and mild stroke outcomes and untreated deficits using GIS, which may lead to larger scale research grants.

Dr Liu’s research is multi-disciplinary in nature whereby output of this research has a wide impact across the physical/environmental science as well as social science. Her current research interest focus on CA and agent based urban modelling as well as integrating spatial data mining and big data analytics to enhance our understanding on social spatial issues, as she believes that spatial approach is a novel focus for cross-disciplinary interaction and research in the social and behavioural sciences.

Research Interests:

  • Development of methodology for spatial data mining and big data analytics
  • Applications of GIS, spatial analysis and modelling in urban and human environments
  • Spatially integrated social science (SISS) research focusing on housing, neighbourhood issues and spatial access to resources and services
  • Cellular automata (CA) and Agent-based model (ABM) for urban growth and land use change simulation
  • 3D modelling and geo-visualisation
  • Web-based GIS applications


Staff Details

+61 7 3365 6483
+61 7 3365 6899
  • Affiliate, Institute for Social Science Research
  • Senior Lecturer, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management
  • PhD (The University of Queensland)
  • Grad. Cert. Higher Education (The University of Queensland)
  • MSc (Central China Normal)
  • BSc (Hubei, China)