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School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

Faculty and Staff Directory

John A. Kupfer

Title: Professor
Department: Geography
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-6739
Office: Callcott, Room 220
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment
Department of Geography


After graduating with a B.A. in Geography from Valparaiso University (1988), Dr. Kupfer received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Iowa. He was a Research Associate and Instructor at the University of Utah from 1993-1994 before holding tenure-track positions at the University of Memphis (1994-1999) and the University of Arizona (1999-2005). He joined the USC faculty in 2005 and served as department chair from 2013-2017. Professionally, he has served on the Senior Advisory Panel for the Geography and Spatial Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation, as a member of the Landscape Pattern Workgroup of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, and on the Advisory Board of the University of Arizona’s College of Social & Behavioral Sciences Research Institute. From 2016-2018, he was a member of the Committee on Long-Term Management of the Spirit Lake/Toutle River System in Southwest Washington, which was convened by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. He has served as co-editor of Geography Compass, Coordinating Editor of Landscape Ecology, and Associate Editor of Plant Ecology and is currently a member of the governing Council of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), an organization for which he has also served on the Publications and Honors Committees and as President of the AAG’s Biogeography Specialty Group. He was named a Fellow at the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy in Tucson, AZ, and a Summer Research Fellow at the Meeman Biological Field Station in Millington, TN. In his younger days, he worked as a National Park Service ranger at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, where he was a member of their fire crew and received a Special Achievement Award for his work on a river clearing project to improve stream-based recreation.


Dr. Kupfer’s research couples field work with spatial analysis and modeling to explore the effects of landscape transformation, non-native species, and disturbances such as flooding, fire and hurricanes on plant and animal communities. His studies often have direct applications to ecosystem management, and he works regularly with scientists at Congaree National Park, where he has aided their understanding of the interactions among flooding, sedimentation and floodplain forests. He has published in top journals in geography and ecology, with recent research papers that have appeared in Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Geomorphology, Global Ecology and Biogeography, PLoS ONE, Progress in Physical Geography, Aquatic Sciences, and Landscape Ecology, among others. He has garnered $2.4 million in external funding as a PI or Co-PI from a range of sources, including NSF, and received research awards from several professional societies and universities. Dr. Kupfer actively integrates his research interests and projects into his undergraduate and graduate courses and engages students in his research. He has mentored three Magellan Scholars, and prior to arriving at USC in 2005, he won the University of Arizona Provost’s General Education Teaching Award and the University of Memphis Alumni Association Distinguished Teaching Award. He was also awarded the 2013 Ada B Thomas Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award at the University of South Carolina. He has also appeared on the nationally-syndicated TV show Xploration Awesome Planet and in several videos produced for the National Park Service. 


  • GEOG 201: Landform Geography
  • GEOG 348: Biogeography
  • GEOG 370: America's National Parks
  • GEOG 570: Public Land and Water Policy
  • GEOG 747: Seminar in Physical Geography

Representative Publications  

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

Meitzen, K.M., J.A. Kupfer and P. Gao. 2018. Modeling hydrologic connectivity and virtual fish movement across a large Southeastern floodplain, USA. Aquatic Sciences 80: 5.

Kim, D. and Kupfer, J.A. 2016. Tri-variate relationships among vegetation, soil, and topography along gradients of fluvial biogeomorphic succession. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0163223. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0163223

Kaase, C.T. and Kupfer, J.A. 2016. Sedimentation patterns across a Coastal Plain floodplain: The importance of hydrogeomorphic influences and cross-floodplain connectivity. Geomorphology 29: 43-55.

Meitzen, K.M. and Kupfer, J.A. 2015. Abandoned meander forest development patterns in a large alluvial southeastern floodplain, South Carolina, USA. River Systems 21:141-162.

Gao, P., Kupfer, J.A., Guo, D and Lei, T.L. 2013. Identifying functionally-connected habitat compartments with a novel regionalization technique. Landscape Ecology 28: 1949-1959.

Kupfer, J.A. 2012. Landscape ecology and biogeography: Rethinking landscape metrics in a post-FRAGSTATS landscape. Progress in Physical Geography 36: 400-420.

Vaclavik, T.R., Kupfer, J.A. and Meentemeyer, R.K. 2012. Accounting for multi-scale spatial autocorrelation improves performance of invasive species distribution modelling (iSDM). Journal of Biogeography 39: 42-55.

Kupfer J.A. 2011. Theory in landscape ecology and its relevance to biogeography. In: Millington, A., Blumler, M. and Schickhoff, U. (eds) Handbook of Biogeography. London: Sage Press, pp. 57-74.

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