The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #3

A game of planning, a set of maps and a match of nature-based solutions

Guest: Martijn Kuller

January 31st, 2023


“You can ask engineers anything and they will give you a solution, but it is about asking the right things”

In the face of an unpredictable future, we are all called upon each and every day to think of out-of-the box ways to tackle challenges to our environment, wellbeing or which tennis court you should play at on your next camping holiday.

My guest today is Dr. Martijn Kuller, an interdisciplinary researcher at the decision-making cluster of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology. Martijn obtained his PhD at Monash University in Australia and has journeyed across the planning and engineering disciplines in search of how we can better support stakeholders in the implementation of nature-based solutions in cities of the future.

Today on the show, we uncover the subtleties and ironies of decision-making as it relates to gut feelings and objectives and how quantitative tools should be designed to better support transitions to climate-resilient in cities both in the global north and south.


Dr. Martijn is an early-career researcher specialising in integrated planning- and decision support in urban water management. He holds a BSc degree in Environmental Economics and MSc in Urban Environmental Management from Wageningen University in The Netherlands. He was awarded the scholarships FEIPRS and ERLA to complete his PhD research in planning support for water sensitive urban design at Monash University, Australia. Since his PhD, Martijn worked as a postdoc, first at UNSW and then at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science & Technology (Eawag). During his young academic career he published seven first-authored articles in highly reputable scientific journals and another four co-authored articles, 24 conference papers and one book chapter, and has received the Postgraduate Publication Award from Monash University for his efforts. Martijn has industry experience, having held a position at Zero Waste SA (State govt., South Australia), doing casual consultancy work for JACOBS (Australia) and an internship for Royal HaskoningDHV (The Netherlands).

During his PhD at Monash University, Martijn developed a planning support tool called SSANTO (Spatial Suitability Analysis Tool), that uses Geo-Information Science and Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (GIS-MCDA) techniques to aid strategic planning of nature-based solutions in an urban landscape. Martijn works closely with planning practitioners to incorporate the needs of the end-user in planning support. This is evident from the involvement of practitioners in the development of SSANTO, as well as his work at Eawag, where he focussed on the design of effective warning communication outputs from a flood forecast and alert system developed for West Africa as part of the Horizon 2020 FANFAR project.

Martijn is also a Marie-Curie Global fellow, specialising in integrated planning- and decision support in urban water management and climate adaptation, which brought him to Université Laval (in Québec, Canada). With his broad interest in sustainability issues, particularly related to our urban environment, he like to work on the interface between urban planning, engineering and the social sciences. 

Resources Related to the Episode

(Disclosure: Links on this page to “View on Amazon” are Affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.)

  • Australian Open and Melbourne Park
  • Martijn’s Personal Recommendation of Tennis Matches:
    • The best match he has ever watched live: [Full Match] or [Highlights]
    • Probably the most epic match he can remember of Roger Federer (his favourite player) for many reasons (the way he came back, the fact that he looked like he never would win a grand slam again, the fact it was against Rafael Nadal) [Full Match] or [Highlights]
    • Another Australian Open Final between Henin and Clijsters, which are some of his favourite female tennis players and they have a great rivalry and defined his early tennis watching career [Watch on YouTube]
  • Martijn’s PhD Thesis from Monash University: SSANTO Planning-Support for Water Sensitive Urban Design [Link]
  • The study of an airport that Martijn undertook:
    • Kuller, M., Dolman, N., Vreeburg, J.H.G. and Spiller, M., Assessing the potential for rainwater harvesting at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. [Open Access Link]
  • “Doing less bad is not doing good” – an early quote in Martijn’s professional development that has been embraced in many fields (e.g.
  • More about the Graduate Research Interdisciplinary Programme (GRIP) that Martijn was part of can be found in a publication on their project:
    • Barron, N.J., Kuller, M., Yasmin, T., Castonguay, A.C., Copa, V., Duncan-Horner, E., Gimelli, F.M., Jamali, B., Nielsen, J.S., Ng, K. and Novalia, W., 2017. Towards water sensitive cities in Asia: An interdisciplinary journey. Water Science and Technology76(5), pp.1150-1157. [Link]
  • De Bosatlas – Travelling the world in his mind [Official Page]
  • Value-focussed thinking, a useful reference:
    • Keeney, R. L., 1996. Value-focused thinking: Identifying decision opportunities and creating alternatives, Eur. J. Oper. Res., 92, 537–549, 1996. [Link]
  • How to travel more economical and more efficient
    • Scott Keyes, Take More Vacations: How to Search Better, Book Cheaper, and Travel the World [View on Amazon]
    • An interview with Scott Keyes also on The Art of Manliness Podcast Episode #811
  • FANFAR Project [Official Page] [Eawag Project Page]
    • Lienert, J., Andersson, J., Hofmann, D., Pinto, F.S. and Kuller, M., 2022. The role of multi-criteria decision analysis in a transdisciplinary process: co-developing a flood forecasting system in western Africa. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences26(11), pp.2899-2922. [Open Access Link]
    • Kuller, M., Schoenholzer, K. and Lienert, J., 2021. Creating effective flood warnings: A framework from a critical review. Journal of Hydrology602, p.126708. [Open Access Link]
  • MOVE-NBS: Extending Martijn’s work on his spatial suitability assessment planning-support system SSANTO for nature-based solutions
    • A presentation about SSANTO and MOVE-NBS over at Martijn’s YouTube Channel
    • Kuller, M., Bach, P.M., Roberts, S., Browne, D. and Deletic, A., 2019. A planning-support tool for spatial suitability assessment of green urban stormwater infrastructure. Science of the total environment686, pp.856-868. [Open Access Link]
    • Kuller, M., Farrelly, M., Deletic, A. and Bach, P.M., 2018. Building effective Planning Support Systems for green urban water infrastructure—Practitioners’ perceptions. Environmental science & policy89, pp.153-162. [Link]
  • More information about Avocado Lattes [Link], combining the two most hipster things about Melbourne together
  • David Hume – 18th century philosopher whose work has changed his perspective, the seminal work An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding would be his go-to reference [Link]
  • Couple of Papers in Complexity Science by Martin Scheffer
    • Scheffer, M., 2010. Foreseeing tipping points. Nature467(7314), pp.411-412. [Link]
    • Scheffer, M., Bascompte, J., Brock, W.A., Brovkin, V., Carpenter, S.R., Dakos, V., Held, H., Van Nes, E.H., Rietkerk, M. and Sugihara, G., 2009. Early-warning signals for critical transitions. Nature461(7260), pp.53-59. [Link]
    • Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S., Foley, J.A., Folke, C. and Walker, B., 2001. Catastrophic shifts in ecosystems. Nature413(6856), pp.591-596. [Link]
  • Humankind by Rutger Bregman [View on Amazon] – Dutch: De Meeste Mensen Deugen: Een Nieuwe Geschiedenis van de Mens
  • More about the Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Martijn’s work in Indonesia on planning-support for nature-based solutions:
    • Kuller, M., Farrelly, M., Marthanty, D.R., Deletic, A. and Bach, P.M., 2022. Planning support systems for strategic implementation of nature-based solutions in the global south: Current role and future potential in Indonesia. Cities126, p.103693. [Open Access Link]

Connect with Martijn Kuller