Phillip Larson, Professor

EARTH Systems Laboratory Co-Director | Earth Science Program Director

Address: 335 Trafton North
Phone: 507-389-2617


Phillip H. Larson's Website

MNiMORPH Research group Website

I was born in Red Wing, Minnesota, and was raised along the banks of the upper Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers.  The geography of my upbringing resulted in a lifelong interest in rivers, the landscapes they create and continuously transform, and the environmental issues revolving around human-river interconnection.  This interest was energized as a child during family vacations to the canyons and incredible landscapes of the southwest United States.  Through these early experiences, a passion for understanding our world developed. When I entered my undergraduate pursuits, first at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (majoring in both Geography and Geology) and finishing at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (major in Geography, minor in Geology), I continued to grow this passion by committing to life-long academic pursuits in Earth Science.  I continued these academic pursuits into graduate work (both Masters and Ph.D.) at Arizona State working with my advisors, Dr. Ron Dorn, and Dr. Mark Schmeeckle.  Today, I consider myself an Earth Scientist, but more specifically, a Geomorphologist with a deep interest in using geomorphic systems to understand and address environmental issues impacting communities. I now serve as Earth Science Director, and EARTH Systems Laboratory Co-Director in my duties as Professor at Minnesota State, Mankato, in the Department of Geography.  I am also a Graduate Faculty in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where I work closely with Dr. Andrew Wickert and our merged research group – MNiMORPH.

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 101 - Introductory Physical Geography
  • GEOG 315 - Geomorphology
  • GEOG 416W/516 - Fluvial Geomorphology and Hydrology
  • GEOG 417/517 - Quaternary Environments and Climate Change
  • GEOG 440/540 - Landscapes of Hawaii
  • GEOG 440/540 - Geoscience, Environmental Issues, National Parks, and Archeology: Southwest USA
  • GEOG 440/540 - Field Methods
  • GEOG 610 - Geomorphology and Geoarchaeology: Southwest USA
  • GEOG 610 - Geoscience and Geoarchaeology: Hawai

Research Interests

  • Environmental/Climatic Change
  • Geoarchaeology
  • Geomorphology & Earth Surface Processes
  • Ground Penetrating Radar 
  • Natural Hazards
  • Quaternary Geology and Dating Methods
  • Rivers and Watershed Science

Selected Publications

Larson, P.H., Dorn, R.I., Skotnicki, S., Seong, Y.B. Gootee, B. (2022). Drainage integration in extensional tectonic settings and the revival of the great rivers of Arizona. Geomorphology.

Larson, P.H., Dorn, R.I., Skotnicki, S., Seong, Y.B., DePonty, J. (2020). Impact of drainage integration on basin geomorphology and landform evolution: Case study along the Salt and Verde Rivers of the Sonoran Desert, USA. Geomorphology.

*Hilgendorf, Z, *Wells, G., Larson, P.H., *Millett, J., *Swanson, M. (2020). From basins to rivers: Understanding the revitalization and significance of top-down drainage integration mechanisms in drainage basin evolution. Geomorphology.

Larson, P.H., Kelley, S., Dorn, R.I., Seong Y.B. (2016). Pace of Landscape Change in the Northeastern Sonoran Desert, United States. Annals of the American Association of Geographers.

GK GILBERT AWARD RECIPIENT – American Association of Geographers:
Faulkner, D., Larson, P.H., Jol, H.M., Running, G.L., Loope, H.M., and Goble, R.J. (2016). Episodic Incision and Terrace Formation Resulting from Abrupt Late-Glacial Base-Level Fall, Lower Chippewa River, Wisconsin, USA. Geomorphology. 266: 75-95.

Current Research Projects

  • (2022-current) National Science Foundation: FRES (Frontier Research in Earth Sciences) - $2,795,159 - Collaborative Research: Lake Superior basin: Natural geomorphic experiment, deepwater-terminating ice stream, and isostatically adjusting rift.  PI's: Univ. of Minnesota - Andy Wickert (Lead), Karen Gran (Co-PI), Maximilliano Bezada (Co-PI), Keisha Varma (Co-PI); Minnesota State, Mankato - Phillip Larson (Institutional PI); Harvard - Jerry Mitrovica (Institutional PI); UW-Superior - Andy Breckenridge (Institutional PI); UW-Madison - Luke Zoet (Co-PI), Marianne Haseloff (Institutional PI).  MSU Total: $705,829
  • (2022-current) Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund - $199,000 - Land-use and climate impacts on Minnesota's Whitewater River. PI - Andy Wickert (UMN); Subcontract PIs: Phillip Larson, Dylan Blumentritt (Winona St.); Collaborators: Lawerence Svien (Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources), Sara Holger (Minnesota DNR).  MSU Total: $85,000
  • (2013-current) Post-glacial environmental and geomorphic change - aeolian deposition and periglacial/permafrost degradation - in the upper Midwest, USA. 
  • (2009-current) Drainage integration (outburst floods, overflow processes, and the birth of new hydrogeomorphic systems) and associated basin/landscape evolution. 

*indicates student author(s)


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