Francis J. Magilligan

Academic Appointments

The Frank J. Reagan '09 Chair of Policy Studies
Professor of Geography
Adjunct Professor of Earth Sciences

My teaching and research interests focus primarily on fluvial geomorphology and surface water hydrology. In particular, my research addresses stream channel and watershed response to environmental change – whether the change is generated by natural (e.g. climate change) or anthropogenic (e.g. agriculture, grazing, or logging) causes. For example, I have worked on the geomorphic impacts of catastrophic floods in the Upper Mississippi River as well as glacial outburst floods in Iceland. At a more local level, I have been analyzing the geomorphic impacts of Hurricane Irene that ravaged eastern Vermont in late summer 2011. Currently, I am focusing on the links between channel processes and riparian ecology, especially the role of flow regulation by dams on aquatic and floodplain ecology. This work was recently highlighted in a National Science Foundation online newsletter and PBS.

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Besides this current research on the hydro-ecological impacts of dams and dam removal, I also have a project in the Peruvian Atacama Desert investigating the long-term evolution of El Niño floods and the regional relationship between climate change and cultural history. Students are actively involved in all aspects of my research and are an integral part of all my research activities.

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Fairchild 017
HB 6017
Earth Sciences
B.A. Boston University
M.S. University of Wisconsin
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin

Selected Publications

Fields, J., Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F. J., Dethier, E.N. and Rossi, R., 2021, A mechanistic understanding of channel evolution following dam removal, Geomorphology,

Magilligan, F.J., Nislow, K.H., Dietrich, J.T., Doyle, H. and Kynard, B., 2021, Transient versus sustained biophysical responses to dam removal, Geomorphology.

Sneddon, C.S., Magilligan, F.J., and Fox, C., 2021, River restoration and the contradictions of state power, Annals American Association of Geographers.

Drapier, L., Germaine, M., Lezpez, L., Magilligan, F., and Sneddon, C., 2021., Networks, coalitions, and the contestation of dam removal across political and institutional scales. Geographical Review,

Magilligan, F.J., Roberts, M.O., Marti, M., and Renshaw, C.E., 2021, The impact of run-of-river dams on sediment longitudinal connectivity and downstream channel equilibrium, Geomorphology, doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2020.107568

Dethier, E., Sartain, S., Renshaw, C. and Magilligan, F.J., 2020, Spatially coherent regional changes in seasonal extreme streamflow events in the United States and Canada since 1960, Science Advances, 6:eaba5939.

Dethier, E.N., Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J., 2020. Toward improved accuracy of remote sensing approaches for quantifying suspended sediment: Implications for suspended‐sediment monitoring. Journal of Geophysical Research –  Earth Surface. 125.

Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J., Doyle, H., Dethier, E., and Kantack, K., 2019, Rapid response of New England rivers to shifting boundary conditions: processes, timeframes, and pathways to post-flood channel equilibrium, Geology, doi:10.1130/G46702.1

Magilligan, F.J., Nislow, K.H., Renshaw, C.E., 2020, Flow regulation by dams: ongoing and emerging trends. In: Shroder, J. (Editor in Chief), Wohl, E. (Ed.), Treatise in Geomorphology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, Fluvial Geomorphology,

Roberts, M., Renshaw, C.E., and Magilligan, F.J., 2020, Field measurement of the probability of coarse-grained sediment entrainment in natural rivers, Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, doi:10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0001694

Magilligan, F.J., James, L.A., Lecce, S., Dietrich, J.T., and Kupfer, J.A., 2019, Geomorphic responses to extreme rainfall, catastrophic flooding, and dam failures across an urban to rural landscape, Annals American Association of Geographers,

Magilligan, F.J., Sneddon, C.S., and Fox, C.A., 2018, The socio-geomorphology of river restoration: dam removal and the politics of place, In (eds.): M. Werner,‎ J. Peck,‎ R. Lave,‎ B. Christophers, Doreen Massey: Critical Dialogues, Columbia University Press, pp. 112 – 120.

Partridge, T.F., Winter, J.M., Osterberg, E.C., Hyndman, D.W., Kendall, A.D., and Magilligan, F.J., 2018,  Spatially distinct seasonal patterns and forcings of the U.S. Warming Hole, Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1002/2017GL076463.

Wohl E., Brierley, G., Cadol, T., Coulthard, T., Covino, T., Fryirs, K., Grant, G., Hilton, T., Lane, Magilligan, F., Meitzen, K., Passalacqua, P., Pöppl, R., Rathburn, S., Sklar, L., 2018, Connectivity as an emergent property of geomorphic systems, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms,

Sneddon, C.S, Magilligan, F.J., and Fox, C.A., 2017, Science of the dammed: Expertise and knowledge claims in contested dam removals, Water Alternatives, 10(3): 677-696.

Foley, M.M., J.R. Bellmore, J.E. O’Connor, J.J. Duda, A.E. East, G.E. Grant, C.W. Anderson, J.A. Bountry, M.J. Collins, P.J. Connolly, L.S. Craig, J.E. Evans, S.L. Greene, F.J. Magilligan, C.S. Magirl, J.J. Major, G.R. Pess, T.J. Randle, P.B. Shafroth, C.E. Torgersen, D. Tullos, A.C. Wilcox, 2017, Dam removal—listening in, Water Resources Research, doi:10.1002/2017WR020457

Magilligan, F.J., Sneddon, C., Fox, C.A. 2017, The social, historical, and institutional contingencies of dam removal, Environmental Management, 59(6), 982-994.

Foley, M.M., Magilligan, F.J., Torgersen, C.E., Major, J.J., Anderson, C.W., Connolly P.J., Wieferich, D., Shafroth, P.B., Evans J.E., Infante, D., 2017, Landscape context and the biophysical response of rivers to dam removal in the United States, PLoS ONE,

Naylor, L.A., Spencer, T., Lane, S.N., Darby, S.E., Magilligan, F.J., Macklin, M.G., and Möller, I., 2017, Stormy Geomorphology: geomorphic contributions in an age of climate extremes, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 42: 166–190

Magilligan, F.J., Nislow, K.H. Kynard, B.E., Hackman, A.M., 2016, Immediate changes in stream channel geomorphology, aquatic habitat, and fish assemblages following dam removal in a headwater catchment, Geomorphology, 252:158-170

Fox, C., Magilligan, F.J., and Sneddon, C.S., 2016, “You kill the dam, you are killing a part of me”: Dam removal and the environmental politics of river restoration”, Geoforum, 70: 93–104.

Magilligan, F.J., Graber, B., Nislow, K.H., Chipman, J, Sneddon, C.S., and Fox, C. 2016, River restoration by dam removal:  assessing riverine re-connectivity and watershed resilience at a regional scale, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. doi: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000108

Magilligan, F.J., Sneddon, C.S. and Fox, C., 2016, The era of big dam building: it ain’t over till it’s over, In (eds.): C. Ashcraft and T. Mayer, The Politics of Fresh Water: Access, Conflict and Identity, Routledge Press, pp. 78-97.

Dethier, E., Magilligan, F.J., Renshaw, C.R., and Nislow, K.H., 2016, Chronic and episodic disturbances: the persistence and legacy of extreme floods, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 41:1437–1447.

Gartner, J.D., Magilligan, F.J., and Renshaw, C.E., 2015, Predicting the type, location and magnitude of geomorphic responses to dam removal: role of hydrologic and geomorphic constraints, Geomorphology, 251: 20-30.

Magilligan, F.J., Buraas, E.M., and Renshsaw, C.E., 2015, The efficacy of stream power and flow duration on geomorphic responses to catastrophic flooding, Geomorphology, 228: 175-188.

Underwood, J.W., Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J., Dade, W.B., and Landis, J.D., 2015, Joint isotopic mass balance:  A novel approach to quantifying channel bed to channel margins sediment transfer during storm events, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 40: 15631573.

Gartner, J., Dade, W.B., Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J., 2015, Gradients in stream power influence lateral and downstream sediment flux in floods, Geology, 43: 983-986

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PBS Video of NSF-sponsored Dam Removal Research