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Dr. Phil Graniero

Associate Professor

Modelling, Analysis, and Visualization of Complex Systems

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Windsor
401 Sunset Avenue
Windsor, Ontario, N9B 3P4, Canada

(519) 253-3000 x2485
Fax: (519) 973-7081 
Room 211 Memorial Hall

Profile photo of Dr Phil Graniero


  • B.E.S. University of Waterloo, Canada, 1994
  • M.E.S. University of Waterloo, Canada, 1996
  • Ph.D. University of Toronto, Canada, 2001


  • 03-66-102 Atmosphere and Climate
  • 03-66-370 Climate Change
  • 03-66-102 Atmosphere and Climate
  • 03-66-230 HydrologY

Administrative Positions

Program Chair, Environmental Studies
Centre for Inter-Faculty Programs, University of Windsor

2008 - 2015

Acting Associate Dean, Undergraduate Affairs
Faculty of Science, University of Windsor

July 1 - Dec 31, 2012

Strategic Committees and Program Development

Program Evaluation Site Visit Team
Environmental Careers Organization

2012 and 2016

UWinsite ERP Evaluation Team, Student Information System
Office of the Vice-President, Planning & Administration, University of Windsor

2016 - present

Student Information Access Policy Committee
Registrar's Office, University of Windsor

2015 - 2016

Science Program Development Committee
Faculty of Science, University of Windsor

2015 - present

Campus Master Plan Steering Committee
Office of the Vice-President, Planning & Administration, University of Windsor

2013 - present

University Senate
University of Windsor

2012 - present

Provost & Vice-President, Academic Search Committee
President's Office, University of Windsor


MS365 Technical Working Group
IT Services, University of Windsor

2013 - 2015

Research Management Committee
GEOIDE Network of Centres of Excellence

2008 - 2012

Program Development Working Group
BA Engineering Program, University of Windsor

2011 - 2012

Interdisciplinary Programming and Research Committee
Office of the Provost, University of Windsor

2010 - 2011

Short Answer:

I build software tools that help people describe how things work, understand what's happening, and make decisions in complex systems.

I connect data to human thinkers. 
I turn numbers into concepts and pictures that people can relate to and think about.

Long Answer:

I am interested in the ways we express, think about, and understand systems: the complex interactions at multiple scales that produce the patterns and behaviours we observe in our world. I explore the techniques and tools that we have - and that we still need to build - to capture and describe our conceptual understanding of these systems, and to connect our data and observations to this understanding, so we can make useful decisions.

I explore these questions by drawing a LOT of boxes and lines on whiteboards and scraps of paper, and then developing software that allows us to do these things for different problem domains. If tools and methods can tackle problems in more than one domain, that is a good sign that I am getting at more general principles. Inter-disciplinarity, collaboration, and cross-pollination are absolutely necessary for my kind of work.

Up to a few years ago I spent most of my time working in hydrological and environmental systems. I then spent a brief period examining commercial and industrial facilities. My attention is now focused on examining how  people conceptualize and navigate academic institutions, using several useful conceptual metaphors including the 'knowledge metropolis' and the 'learning ecology', and developing new methods in academic analytics for problem discovery, exploration, and decision support.

Primary approaches I use in my work are:

  • systems thinking
  • design thinking
  • domain modelling and pragmatic approaches to epistemology and ontology
  • software development methods, especially agile approaches
  • modelling and decision support systems
  • visualization and communication methods

For problem domains I tackled in the past, GIS, geomatics and geocomputation were especially useful tools. The concepts behind them - particularly mapping and visualization of relationships - still inform my work to some degree. However, I have not used GIS directly in my research for a few years.

Interests that get my personal attention and thinking time, but have not yet found their way directly into my formal work, are:

  • sustainable building architecture, design, and construction
  • cities, sustainability, and urban planning
  • sustainable food systems, and healthy approaches to food
  • the creative process, and the ways that ideas spread 

Modelling, Evaluation and Mapping Frameworks Lab

MEMF Lab is a space for collaborative software design and development. The focus is on developing platforms that are used to create decision-support applications that benefit from:

  • describing, analyzing, and visualizing complex environments (physical, social, or organizational);
  • manipulating human-centric concepts rather than computer-centric structures;
  • connecting to different data sources with different formats and using them together;
  • transforming numerical data into words, events, and visual symbols.

'Mapping' means several things in our work:

  • cartographic maps of geographical places;
  • schematic maps of non-spatial networks, relationships, and transitions;
  • representation maps of problem domain concepts to software objects or components.

The Facilities

Group design sessions happen in a central discussion space, where a projected computer screen and a large whiteboard may be used simultaneously. When it is time to break out for individual work, there are several work spaces set up for a range of computer and multiple-display configurations.

MEMF Lab's computing infrastructure is housed in a secure, power-protected server room, including:

  • independent source code repository and version control;
  • automatic backup systems;
  • a range of database, web, content management, gallery, and file services;
  • isolated servers for setting up experimental operating system, service, and application configurations.

MEMF Lab has an extensive library covering topics including:

  • software design, development, and engineering methodologies;
  • software architecture, platform, and framework development;
  • software project management;
  • knowledge representation, expert systems, and decision support;
  • databases, data crunching, and visualization;
  • geographic information systems, geocomputation, and sensor webs;
  • technology uptake, software licensing, and start-up/spin-out development.

Past Graduate Students

Piunno, Paolo   Master's Co-supervisor   2012. Knowledge base design and validation for the REACTOR system

Mekni, Mehdi   Doctoral Co-supervisor   2010 (Université Laval). Automated generation of geometrically precise and semantically-informed virtual geographic environments populated with spatially-reasoning agents. (Winner of the American Association of Geographers Garrison Award for Best Dissertation in Computational Geography, 2011)

D'Alimonte, Dan     Master's Supervisor    2010. Integrating real-time sensor data into geosimulation models

Xing, Xitao     Master's Supervisor   2008. An architectural framework for developing advanced integrated environmental monitoring systems

McCarthy, James     Master's Supervisor   2007. Using sensor ontologies to create reasoning-ready sensor data for real-time hazard monitoring in a spatial decision support system

Rozic, Steven    Master's Supervisor   2006. Representing domain and spatial knowledge with ontologies in a spatial decision support framework

Andrew-McBride, Peter     Master's Supervisor   2006. The fine-scale spatial and temporal variability of hydrologic attributes associated with the process of infiltration in ?nano-catchments? during a rainfall event

Wintermute, Jason     Master's Co-supervisor    2004. Modelling the distribution of contaminated sediments in the Detroit River

Past Postdocs

Haddad, Hedi   Postdoctoral Supervisor   2009-2010. Intelligent event evaluation for adaptive environmental monitoring systems

Jabeur, Nafaa    Postdoctoral Supervisor   2006-2007. A multi-agent approach to managing a virtual wireless environmental sensor network

Big Ideas: Books That Matter

On September 29, 2016 I spent the afternoon with the incoming MBA cohort: a 90 minute talk about being interdisciplinary, and about business and environmental sustainability. This was followed by an impromptu 90 minutes of engaging conversation with a group wanting to talk more about wanting to explore more about some big ideas:

  • systems methods and ‘net flow’ process thinking;
  • how you get your head around such massive, complex problems; and
  • how one finds ways to stay optimistic in the face of such large, daunting, seemingly impossible problems.

More importantly, the discussions revolved around making headway on these daunting problems. This MBA cohort is a great group of people, who are going to do some things that truly matter.

The books below came up either in the planned talk or in the impromptu discussion. They are light on reading, heavy on ideas. Enjoy!

Glimmer book cover

Warren Berger and Bruce Mau. Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your World. Vintage Press.

All designers (and all valuable inter-disciplinary people) are T-shaped. This is the power that lets them jump fences.

Linchpin book cover

Seth Godin. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Portfolio.

Don't wait for somoene to pick you. Pick yourself. Be essential: do something you think is important.

Tribes book cover

Seth Godin. Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us. Portfolio.

A tribe is any group of people who are connected to each other, a leader, and an idea. We do our best and most generous work when we do it with our tribe, and it's easier than ever to find them, connect them, and even lead them.

The War of Art book cover

Steven Pressfield. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Black Irish Press.

That internal thing that keeps us up at night and keeps us from doing the work we're meant to do has a name: Resistance. Resistance cannot be tamed, but it can be called out, battled back, and conquered. Resistance can help us recognize where our more important work lies.

The ARt of the Start 2.0 book cover

Guy Kawasaki. The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. Portfolio.

"You have to wait at the side of a river for a very long time before a hot fish dinner leaps into your mouth."

You know what your important work is, and you have Resistance cowering on the sidelines. Now what? No matter what you are starting - inside an organization or on your own, business or non-profit, product or service or movement - the same essential things turn your ideas into action.

Not a book, but a big idea

And a bonus: Hard to find, and not light reading, but full of big ideas

Business Dynamics book cover

John Sterman. Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World. McGraw-Hill

The most difficult problems - where we are needed most - happen within incredibly complex, tangled, interconnected systems. Systems thinking and modelling techniques help us get our heads around what is happening, find the places where there may be opportunity to make headway, and gain better understanding of the possible effects and consequences.