George Malanson

a photo of George Malanson
Coleman-Miller Professor, Emeritus
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Interests: 
landscape ecology of mountain geography; spatial simulations of land cover change

My current research focus is on the response of alpine tundra and alpine treeline to climate change. I am examining the multiscale nature of the composition of alpine tundra communities across the Europe and western North America. My broad research agenda has had a continuing focus on biodiversity, and diverse aspects are linked by a focus on the interaction of spatial pattern and process. I address how spatial patterns (e.g., natural or human-caused fragmentation) and processes (e.g., dispersal) affect vegetation dynamics and ecological sustainability in response to human-induced changes such as climatic change and altered disturbance regimes.

My research currently uses existing datasets and computer simulations. Much of my past fieldwork was based in the northern Rocky Mountains, where I studied patterns and processes at alpine treeline, and simulation work is now focused on questions of the geographical and historical contexts for response to climate change.

Awards and honors

  • 2022 Fellow, American Association of Geographers

  • 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award, American Association of Geographers

  • 2008 Sagarmatha Distinguished Career Award, AAG Mountain Geography Specialty Group

  • 2007 Henry C. Cowles Award for outstanding publication, with J.A. Kupfer and S.B. Franklin, AAG Biogeography Specialty Group

  • 2006 Henry C. Cowles Award for outstanding publication, with K.J. Alftine, AAG Biogeography Specialty Group

  • 2004 James J. Parsons Distinguished Career Award, AAG Biogeography Specialty Group

  • 2003-present Coleman - Miller Professor, University of Iowa

  • 2003 elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Offices held, service (1998-)

  • Ecological Society of America, Vegetation Section, Vice-Chair, 2016-2019

  • National Science Foundation, Division of Environmental Biology, program director, 2014-2016

  • National Science Foundation (NIH), Division of Environmental Biology, LTER panel, 2013

  • NIH Social Sciences and Population Studies, Study Section (proposal panel), 2005, 2006, 2007-2011

  • National Commission on Science for Sustainable Forestry, research proposals panel, 2004

  • National Science Foundation, Biocomplexity: Coupled Human & Natural Systems panel, 2002

  • National Academies/National Research Council Committee on Geography at USGS, 2000-02

  • National Science Foundation Geography & Regional Science Program panel, 1998-1999

Editorial service

  • Editor, Progress in Physical Geography, 2010-2014, 2019-2022
  • Associate Editor: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 2005-2013
  • Associate Editor for Biogeography, Physical Geography, 2006-2014


Graduate Advisees: 

I am no longer teaching or advising students.

MA Theses:

  • Rex, K.D. 1990. Fractal Analysis of Woodland Patches Along the Iowa and Cedar Rivers.
  • Kupfer, J.A. 1991. Structure, Composition, and Successional Dynamics of a Riparian Edge Community
  • Craig, M.R. 1992. Colonization on Point Bars by Woody Riparian Species.
  • Finley, S.D. 1993. Investigation of Factors Influencing Species Diversity of Remnant Forest Patches in Northeast Iowa.
  • Hougen, D. 1994. Effects of Accessibility and Isolation on the Structure and Composition of Lakeshore Forest Sites in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota.
  • Williams, Thomas. 2014. Estimating organic carbon on avalanche paths, Glacier National Park, Montana.

PhD Dissertations:

  • Kupfer, J.A. 1995. The Effects of Edge Vegetation on Interior Gap-Successional Processes.
  • Liu, Z.J. 1995. Impact of Climate and Management Practices on Nitrate Contamination in Groundwater: Spatial and Temporal Analyses in the Big Spring Basin, Iowa.
  • Cairns, D.M. 1995. Carbon Balance Modeling at the Alpine Treeline Ecotone in Glacier National Park, Montana.
  • Chen, G. 2001. Relating Landscape Patterns to Hydrological Processes in a Watershed Hierarchy
  • Alftine, K.J. 2002. The Relationship Between Tree Establishment Patterns and Positive Feedback at Alpine Treeline.
  • Bekker, M. F. 2002. Effects of Biotic Feedback on the Pattern and Rate of Subalpine Forest Advancement.
  • Wang, Q. 2007. Effects of the Representation of Landscape Pattern on Species Dynamics in Colonization-Competition Models.
  • Yadav, V. 2008. Soil Carbon Dynamics in the Big Creek Basin in Southern Illinois, USA
  • Goshit, S. 2009. Synoptic Influence on Winter Temperature and Precipitation in Western Montana.
  • Zeng, Y. 2010. Modeling complex dynamics at alpine treeline ecotones.
  • Grafius, D.R. 2011. Distribution and biomass dynamics of the alpine treeline ecotone across the western United States.
Grants & Funding: 

 Current funding: 

  • NSF Geography & Spatial Sciences, Geographic patterns and spatial scales of alpine plant communities, sole PI, $201,171, 2019-2023

Past funding:

  • 2012-2014 NSF Geography & Spatial Sciences, Multiscale Context for Change in Alpine Tundra, lead PI with D. Fagre and D. Zimmerman, $219,719
  • 2009-2012 NSF Geography & Spatial Sciences, Implications of an Invasive Forest Pathogen for Alpine Treeline Dynamics co-PI with L. Resler and D. Tomback, $439,006
    2004-2009 USGS, Response of Western Mountain Ecosystems to Climatic Variability and Change: The Western Mountain Initiative, with D.R. Butler and S.J. Walsh; $345,000.
  • 2006-2008 Modeling Dynamism of Human Settlement Frontiers: Synthesizing Discordant Pattern-Process Relations and LCLUC Trajectories in Coupled Natural-Human Systems, NASA, co-I, with S.J. Walsh, $42,000 of $178,756
  • 2004-2007 NSF Biocomplexity, Coupled Human and Natural Systems: Feedbacks Among Patterns and Processes of Land Use and Land Cover Dynamics in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon, with S.J. Walsh; $120,000 of $320,000
  • 2004-07 NSF Biocomplexity, Coupled Human and Natural Systems: Virtual Watershed: Agricultural Landscape Evolution in an Adaptive Management Framework, subcontract with Jerry Schnoor on grant to Chris Lant; $130,000 of $450,000


Selected Publications: 

Malanson GP, Testolin R, Pansing ER, Jiménez-Alfaro B. 2023. Area, environmental heterogeneity, scale, and the conservation of alpine diversity. Journal of Biogeography, in press.

Malanson GP, Pansing ER, Testolin R, Jiménez-Alfaro B. 2023. Simulations reveal climate and legacy effects underlying regional beta diversity in alpine vegetation. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 11:

Malanson GP, Testolin R, Pansing ER, Jiménez-Alfaro B. 2022. Mesoscale refugia for European alpine grasslands based on climatic envelopes. Alpine Botany 132: 169-180.

Malanson GP, Pansing ER, Testolin R, Abdulhak S, Bergamini A, Ćušterevska R, Kuzmanović S, Marcenó C, Milanović D, Ruprecht E, Šibik J, Stanisci A, Vassilev K, Willner W, Jiménez-Alfaro B. 2022. Explanation of beta-diversity in European alpine grasslands changes with scale. Ecosphere 13: e4066.

Malanson GP, Alftine KJ. 2021. Ecological impacts of climate change. In R Sivanpillai (ed) Biological and Environmental Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, 2nd edition. Elsevier, Amsterdam, in press (also in 1st ed., 2014, 397-426).

Malanson GP, Talal ML, Pansing ER, Franklin S. 2021. Vegetation ecology with anthropic drivers and consequences. Progress in Physical Geography 45: 446-459.

Testolin R., Attorre F, Borchardt P, Brand RF, Bruelheide H, Chytrý M, De Sanctis M, Dolezal J, Finckh M, Haider S, Hemp A, Jandt U, Kessler M, Korolyuk AY, Lenoir J, Makunina N, Malanson GP, Montesinos-Tubée DB, NorooziJ, Nowak A, Peet RK, Peyre G, Sabatini FM, Šibík J, Sklenář P, Sylvester SP, Vassilev K, Virtanen R, Willner W, Wiser SK, Zibzeev EG, Jiménez-Alfaro B. 2021a. Global patterns and drivers of alpine plant species richness. Global Ecology and Biogeography 30: 1218– 1231.

Testolin R., Carmona CP, Attore F, Borchardt P, Bruelheide H, Dolezal J, M. Finckh M, Haider S, Hemp A, Jandt U, Korolyuk AY, Lenoir J, Makunina N, Malanson GP, Noroozi J, Nowak A, Peet RK, Peyre G, Sabatini FM, Šibík J, Sklenář P, Vassilev K, Virtanen R, Wiser SK, Zibzeev EG, Jiménez-Alfaro, B. 2021b. Global functional variation in alpine vegetation. Journal of Vegetation Science 32: e13000.

Jiménez-Alfaro, B., Abdulhak S, Attorre, Bergamini A, Carranza ML, Chiarucci, A., Ćušterevska R, Dullinger S, Gavilán RG, Giusso del Galdo G, Kuzmanov N, Laiolo P, Loidi J, Malanson GP, Marcenó C, Milanović D, Pansing ER, Roces-Díaz JV, Ruprecht E, Šibik J, Stanisci A, Testolin R, Theurillat J-P, Vassilev K, Willner W, Winkler M. 2021. Postglacial determinants of regional species pools in alpine grasslands. Global Ecology and Biogeography 30: 1101-1115.

Malanson GP, Franklin S, Talal ML, Pansing ER. 2020. Human dimensions: vegetation ecology. Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 104: e01776.

Malanson GP, Virtanen R, Britton AJ, Jiménez-Alfaro B, Qian H, Petraglia A, Tomaselli M, Cooper D, Damm C, Pemble RH, Brett RB. 2020. Hemispheric and continental scale patterns of similarity in mountain tundra. Annals of the American Association of Geographers 110: 1005-1021.

Malanson GP, Peet RK. 2020. Foundational biogeography: Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains (Ecological Monographs, 26:1-80, 1956), by Robert H. Whittaker. Progress in Physical Geography 44: 137-143.

Malanson GP, Nelson E, Fagre DB, Zimmerman DL. 2020. Alpine plant community diversity in species-area relations at fine scale. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 52: 41-46.