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 (see below video).  Besides this ongoing research focus on dams, I am also interested in the biophysical impacts of dam removal in conjunction with the social, political, and environmental dimensions that orbit around the decision to remove a dam.  I recently received a Guggenheim Award to further document and situate the science and politics related to river restoration writ large across the US.


Steele, Room 009B
HB 6017




  • 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,

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PBS Video of NSF-sponsored Dam Removal Research