Francis J. Magilligan

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

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

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.

Marks, C., Nislow, K.H. and Magilligan, F.J., 2014, Quantifying flooding regime in floodplain forests to guide river restoration, Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, DOI: 10.12952/journal.elementa.000031

Buraas, E.M., Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J. and Dade, W.B., 2014, Impact of reach geometry on stream channel sensitivity to extreme floods, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. DOI: 10.1002/esp.3562

Kaste, J.M., Magilligan, F.J., Renshaw, C.E., Fisher, G.B., and Dade, W.B., 2014, Seasonal controls on meteoric 7Be in coarse-grained river channels, Hydrological Processes, 28: 2738-2748.

Renshaw, C.E., Abengoza, K., Magilligan, F.J., Dade, W.B., and Landis, J.D., 2014, Impact of flow regulation on near-channel floodplain sedimentation, Geomorphology, 205:120-127

Magilligan, F.J., Nislow, K.H., Renshaw, C.E., 2013, Flow regulation by dams. In: Shroder, J. (Editor in Chief), Wohl, E. (Ed.), Treatise on Geomorphology. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, vol. 9, Fluvial Geomorphology, pp. 794–808.

Kasprak, A., Magilligan, F.J., Nislow, K., Renshaw, C.E., Snyder, N. and Dade, W.B., 2013, Differentiating the relative importance of land cover change and geomorphic processes on fine sediment sequestration in a logged watershed, Geomorphology, 185: 67-77.

Kasprak, A., Magilligan, F.J., Nislow, K.H., and Snyder, N., 2012, A lidar-derived evaluation of watershed-scale large woody debris sources and recruitment mechanisms: Coastal Maine, USA, River Research & Applications, 28: 1462–1476.

Landis, J.D., Hamm, N.T., Renshaw, C.E., Dade, W.B., Magilligan, F.J., Gartner, J.D., 2012, Surficial redistribution of fallout 131Iodine in a small temperate catchment, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, 109: 4064–4069.

Gartner, J.D., Renshaw, C.E., Dade, W.B., Magilligan, F.J., 2012, Time and depth scales of fine sediment delivery into gravel stream beds: Constraints from fallout radionuclides on fine sediment residence time and delivery, Geomorphology, 151: 39-49.

Goldstein, P. and Magilligan, F.J., 2011, Hazard, risk and agrarian adaptations in a hyperarid watershed: El Niño floods, streambank erosion, and the cultural bounds of vulnerability in the Andean Middle Horizon, Catena, 85: 155–167.

Dade, W.B., Renshaw, C.E., and Magilligan, F.J., 2011, Sediment-transport constraints on river response to regulation, Geomorphology, 126(1-2):  245-251

Black, E., Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J., Kaste, J., Dade, W.B. and Landis, J., 2010, Determining lateral migration rates in meandering rivers using fallout radionuclides, Geomorphology, 12: 364–369.

Fisher, G.B., Magilligan, F.J., Kaste, J.M., and Nislow, K.H., 2010, Constraining the timescales of sediment sequestration associated with large woody debris with cosmogenic beryllium-7,Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface J, VOL. 115, F01013, doi:10.1029/2009JF001352

Curtis, K.E, Renshaw, C.E., Magilligan, F.J, and Dade, W.B., 2010, Temporal and spatial scales of geomorphic adjustments to reduced competency following flow regulation in bedload dominated systems, Geomorphology, 118: 105-117

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

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.

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.

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Works in progress

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

Fox, C., Magilligan, F.J., and Sneddon, C.S., n.d., “You kill the dam, you are killing a part of me”: Dam removal and the environmental politics of river restoration”, Geoforum, Revised and Re-submitted.

Dethier, E., Magilligan, F.J., Renshaw, C.R., and Nislow, K.H., n.d., Chronic and episodic disturbances: the persistence and legacy of extreme floods, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Revised and Resubmitted.

PBS Video of NSF-sponsored Dam Removal Research