Steven Gray

Steven Gray

Contact Me



File Download

Steven Gray is a full professor in the Department of Community Sustainability. His research focuses on socio-environmental modeling, knowledge diversity and integration and harnessing collective intelligence for sustainability. He has authored over 100 peer reviewed publications and is the lead editor on the book, Environmental Modeling with Stakeholders: Methods, Theories and Applications.  His research has been funded domestically by the National Science Foundation, the Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) and by federal resource management agencies including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Geological Survey, the National Academies of Science and DARPA.  Internationally his research has been supported by the Leibniz-Institute, the Australian Academy of Sciences and the Belmont Forum. He also holds appointments at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is a fellow at the Collective Intelligence Unit IT University of Copenhagen

Currently his lab maintains the Mental Modeler software, which he, his students, and colleagues are applying in a variety of environmental planning and research contexts, including marine spatial planning in Europe, co-created citizen science projects in the US and in Australia,  coastal hazard planning in the Pacific Islands, recreational angler decision-making in Germany, wildfire planning in the Pacific Northwest, conservation agricultural planning in Nepal and India, and understanding bushmeat trade dynamics for conservation planning in Tanzania among many others.

Research Group Webpage: Human-Environment Interactions Lab at MSU

Mental Modeler Software:

Google Scholar Link 

Current Projects (PI or co-PI)

2023-2025 NOAA, Collaborative Modeling of the Benefits, Consequences, and Trade-offs of Mangroves and Seawalls for Coastal Communities.

2021-2024 National Science Foundation, Integrating Perspective-taking, Systems Thinking, and Model-based Reasoning for Complex Problem-Solving.          

2021-2024 Department of Defense (DARPA), Multi-Informed Models Emerging from Social Investigations and Semiotics.

2020-2023 Foundations for Food and Agriculture Resources (USDA), Identifying Leverage Points for the Emergency Food System in Rust-belt Cities at a time of the COVID-19 Crisis.

2018-2023 Foundations for Food and Agriculture Resources (USDA), Identifying Leverage Points for Transformation in Urban Food Systems through Participatory Modeling.

Selected Recent Publications (grad students: underlined; undergrad students: asterisk*)

Knox, C.B., S. Gray, M., Zareei, N. Brugnone, P. Aminpour, R. Wallace, J. Hodbod, and C. Wentworth. (2023). Modeling complex problems by harnessing the collective intelligence of local experts: New approaches in Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping. Collective Intelligence.

Lalani, B., S. Gray, and T Mitra-Ganguli (2023). Systems thinking in an era of climate change: Does cognitive neuroscience hold the key to improving environmental decision making? A perspective on Climate-Smart Agriculture. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 17, 1145744.

Aminpour, P., S. Gray, M. Beck, K. Furman, I. Tsakiri, R. Gittman, J. Grabowski, J. Helgeson, O. Josephs, M. Ruth, and S. Scyphers. (2022). Urbanized knowledge syndrome: Lower knowledge diversity and systems thinking in urban coastal residents. Urban Sustainability. 2 (1), 1-10.

Murphy, R., J. Grabowski, S., Gray and S. Scyphers. (2022). Diversity in motivations and behavioral response to regulations in the Striped Bass commercial fishery. Fisheries. (1), 10-17.

Aminpor, P, S. Gray, A. Singer, S. Scyphers, A. Jetter, R. C. Jordan, R. Murphy, and J. H. Grabowski. (2021) The diversity bonus in pooling local knowledge about complex problems. Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. 118 (5).

Levin, P., S. Gray, C. Mollimon and A Stier. (2021). Perception and conflict in conservation: The Rashomon Effect. BioScience. (1) 64-72.

Schwerner, H., P., Aminpour, S. Funk S. Gray, C. Reza*, and C. Mollimon (2021). Modeling Social-ecological knowledge diversity. (2021) Conservation Science and Practice 3 (5), e396.

Hedelin, B, S., Gray, S. Woehlke, T. BenDor, A. Singer, R.C. Jordan, P. Giabbanelli , P. Glynn, K. Jenni, A Jetter, N. Kolagani, B. Laursen, K. Leong, L. Schmitt Olabisi, E. Sterling, and M. Zellner (2021). What’s left before participatory modeling can fully support real-world environmental planning processes: A case study review. Environmental Modeling and Software. 143. 105073.

Lalani, B., P. Aminpour, S. Gray, M. Williams, L. Büchi, J. Haggar, P. Grabowski, J. Dambiro. (2021) Mapping farmer perceptions, conservation agriculture practices and on-farm measurements: the role of systems thinking in the process of adoption. Agricultural Systems. 191, 103171.

Mamiit, R, S. Gray, J. Yanigida. (2021) Characterizing farm-level social relations’ influence on sustainable food production. Journal of Rural Studies. 86, 566-577.

Murphy, R, B. Harris, N. Wolf, A. Kroska, and S.A. Gray. Using mental models to quantify linear and non-linear relationships in complex fishery systems Marine Policy. 125, 104334.

Aminpor, P., H. Schwerner, and S. Gray. (2021) The relationship between social identity and cognitive diversity in environmental stakeholders. PLoS One. 86, 566-577

Aminpor, P., S. Gray, A. Jetter, J. Introne, and R. Arlinghaus. (2020) The wisdom of stakeholder crowds in complex social-ecological systems. Nature Sustainability. 3(13), 191-199.

Gray, S., Aminpor, P., C. Reza*, S. Scyphers, J. Grabowski, R. Murphy Jr., A. Jetter, and R.C. Jordan. (2020) Harnessing collective intelligence for conservation. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 18 (8), 456-472.

Gray, S., E., Sterling, C. Wei, S. Akabas, A. Singer, P. Giabbanelli, R. Jordan, J. Hodbod. and P. Norris. (2019). Assessing (social-ecological) systems thinking using concept mapping techniques. Sustainability 11 (20), 5753.

Gray, S., B. O'Dwyer, C. O'Mahony, J. Gault, and S. A. Gray. (2019) Caught by the fuzz: Using FCM to prevent coastal adaptation stakeholders from fleeing the scene. Marine Policy. 109, 103: 688.

Murphy, R., J. Grabowski, S., Gray and S. Scyphers. (2019) Angler attitudes explain disparate behavioral reactions to fishery Regulations. Fisheries. 44(10).

Sterling, E., M. Zellner, K. Leong, K. Jenni, S., R. Jordan, T. BenDor, A. Jetter, L. Schmitt-Olabisi, M. Paolisso, K. Hubacek, P. Bommel, G. Bammer and S. Gray. (2019) Try, try again: Lessons learned from success and failure in participatory modeling. Elementa.

Gray, S., Measuring systems thinking. (2018) Nature Sustainability. 1(3) 388-389.

Gray, S., A. Voinov, M. Paolisso, R.C. Jordan, T. BenDor, P. Glynn, B. Hedelin, K. Hubacek, S. Introne, 1N. Kolagani, B. Laursen, C. Prell, L. Schmitt-Olabisi, A. Singer, E. Sterling, and M. Zellner. Purpose, Processes, Partnerships, and Products: 4Ps to advance participatory socio-environmental modeling. (2018) Ecological Applications. 28(1). 46-61.

Voinov, A., K. Jenni, S. Gray, N. Kolagani, P. Glynn, P. Bommel, C. Prell, M. Zellner, M. Paolisso, R.C. Jordan, E. Sterling, L.Schmitt Olabisi, P. Giabbanelli, Z. Sun, C. Le Page, S. Elsawah, T. K. BenDor, K. Hubacek, B. K. Laursen, A. Jetter, L. Basco Carrera, A. Singer, L. Young, J. Brunacini, and A. Smajgl. (2018) Tools and methods in participatory modeling: selecting the right tool for the job. Environmental Modeling and Software. 109: 232-255.

Gray, S., R. C. Jordan, A. Crall, G. Newman, C. Hmelo-Silver, J. Huang, W. Novak, D. Mellor, T. Frensley, M. Prysby, and A. Singer. (2017) Combining participatory modelling and citizen science to support volunteer conservation action. Biological Conservation. 208, 76-86.

Stier, A., J. Samhouri, S. Gray, R. Martone, R., M. Mach., B.,  Halpern, C. Kappel, C. Scarborough, and P. Levin. (2017). Integrating expert opinion into food web conservation and management. Conservation Letters 10(1), 67–76.

Gray, S., A. Singer, L. Schmitt-Olabisi, J. Introne, and J. Handerson.* (2017) Identifying the causes, consequences, and solutions to the Flint Water Crisis through collaborative modeling. Environmental Justice. 10 (5), 154-161.

Singer, A., S. Gray, 1A. Sadler, L. Schmitt Olabisi, K. Metta, 1R. Wallace, M. Lopez, J. Introne, M. Gorman*, and J. Henderson.* (2017) Translating community narratives into semi-quantitative models to understand the dynamics of socio-environmental crises. Environmental Modeling and Software. 97, 46-55.

Sterling E., C. Filardi, J. Newell, S. Albert, D. Alvira, N. Bergamini, E. Betley, M. Blair, D. Boseto, K. Burrows, N. Bynum, S. Caillon, J.E. Caselle, J. Claudet, G. Cullman, R. Dacks, P. B. Eyzaguirre, N. Gazit, S. Gray, J. Herrera, P. Kenilorea, K. Kinney, N. Kurashima, S. Macey, S. Mauli, J. McCarter, H. McMillen, P. Pascua, P. Pikacha, A. Porzecanski, P. de Robert, M. Salpeteur, A. Sigouin, M. Sirikolo, M. H. Stege, K. Stege, T. Ticktin, A. Toomey, R. Vave, A. Wali, P. West, K. B. Winter, and S. Jupiter. (2017) Biocultural approaches to sustainability indicators: bridging local and global scales to foster human adaptive capacity and ecological resilience. Nature: Ecology and Evolution. 1, 1978-1806.