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Department of Geography


John A. Kupfer

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


 After completing a B.A. in Geography from Valparaiso University in 1988, Dr. Kupfer received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography from 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 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. From 2017–2020, he was 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. In recognition of his achievements in research, teaching, and service, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southeastern Division of the AAG in 2022.


 Dr. Kupfer’s research couples field work with GIS-based modeling and analysis to explore the interactive effects of landscape transformation, non-native species, and disturbances such as flooding, fire and hurricanes on plant and animal communities. Most recently, his work has focused on linkages among climate change, urbanization, fire, and ecosystem management. His studies typically have direct applications to ecosystem management, and he works regularly with scientists at Congaree National Park and other protected areas. He has published in top journals in geography and ecology, including npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, Conservation Science & Practice, Science of the Total Environment, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, Global Ecology and Biogeography, Progress in Physical Geography, Sustainability, and Landscape Ecology, among many others. He has garnered over $3.5 million in external funding as a PI or Co-PI from a range of sources, including NSF and the U.S. Department of the Interior, and received research awards from several professional societies and universities. Since 2018, he has served as USC’s Consortium PI to the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (SE CASC), which is part of a network of nine Climate Adaptation Science Centers managed by the U.S. Geological Survey National Climate Adaptation Science Center to deliver science to help fish, wildlife, water, land, and people adapt to a changing climate.

Service and Community Engagement

 Dr. Kupfer is heavily engaged in service and community outreach activities related to his research and teaching interests. He was a member of the National Working Group for the U.S. Biosphere Reserve Network and continues to serve on the Congaree Biosphere Region’s Advisory Council. He has recently served on the organizing committee for the 2022 and 2024 Congaree National Park Research Symposia and helped to organize a community workshop associated with the visit of the Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibit to the park and Columbia in 2021. 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. In addition to serving as a media resource for stories on ecosystem management and the National Park System, he appeared on the nationally syndicated TV show Xploration Awesome Planet and in several videos produced for the National Park Service.


 Dr. Kupfer actively integrates his research interests and projects into his undergraduate and graduate courses and engages students in his research. 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 USC. Courses that are offered on a regular basis include:

  • GEOG 201: Landform Geography
  • GEOG 348: Biogeography
  • GEOG 370: America's National Parks
  • GEOG 548: Landscape Ecology
  • GEOG 570: Public Land and Water Policy
  • GEOG 747: Seminar in Physical Geography

Representative Recent Publications  

Terando, A.J., Gao, P., Kupfer, J.A., Young, K.S., and Hiers, J.K. 2024. Using climate-fire analog mapping to inform adaptive management strategies for wildland fire in protected areas of the conterminous US. Global Environmental Change Advances 2: 100007. 

Jonko, A., et al. 2024. How will future climate change impact prescribed fire across the contiguous United States? npj Climate and Atmospheric Science 7:96.

Hutchens, L., Kupfer, J.A. and Gao, P. 2023. Spatial patterns of conservation benefits, priorities, and barriers in the Congaree Biosphere Region. Southeastern Geographer 63: 98-118.

Lu, J., Huang, X., Kupfer, J.A., Xiao, X., Li, Z., Wei, H., Wang., S., and Zhu, L. 2023. Spatial, temporal, and social dynamics in visitation to U.S. national parks: A big data approach. Tourism Management Perspectives 48: 101143

Kupfer, J.A., Lackstrom, K., Grego, J.M., Dow, K., Terando, A.J., and Hiers, J.K. 2022. Perspectives on prescribed fire management in longleaf pine ecosystems: Current constraints and future prospects. Fire Ecology 18, 27.

Kupfer, J.A., Li, Z., Ning, H., and Huang, X. 2021. Using mobile device data to track the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on spatiotemporal patterns of National Park visitation. Sustainability 13(16): 9366.

Gao, P., Terando, A.J., Hiers, J.K., Kupfer, J.A., Varner, J.M., Stambaugh, M. and Lei, T. 2021. Projected changes in fire probability for the conterminous United States. Science of the Total Environment 789: 147872.

Kupfer, J.A., Terando, A.J., Gao, P., Teske, C., and Hiers, J.K. 2020. Climate change projected to reduce prescribed burning opportunities in the south-eastern United States. International Journal of Wildland Fire 29: 764–778.

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