US Forest Service Research & Development
Contact Information
  • US Forest Service Research & Development
  • 1400 Independence Ave., SW
  • Washington, D.C. 20250-0003
  • 800-832-1355
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Jim McKean

James (Jim) A. McKean

Research Geomorphologist
322 East Front Street, Suite 401
United States

Phone: 406-730-2025
Fax: 208-373-4391
Contact James (Jim) A. McKean

Current Research

Research Interests

  • Modeling effects of spatially varying root strength on the location, frequency and size of shallow landslides
  • Mechanistic controls on shallow landslide size and shape revealed by 3D stability analysis
  • Mechanistic analyses of the effects of climate change on aquatic physical habitat
  • Understanding the responses of hill slopes to channel base level changes
  • Quantitative descriptions and analyses of controls on spatial distribution of channel physical habitat
  • Development and testing of a new terrestrial-aquatic LIDAR to map and monitor stream habitat

Past Research

  • Response of hillslopes to channel baselevel changes
  • Effects of climate induced changes in winter flows on bed mobility and Chinook spawning success
  • Investigations with a new bathymetric LIDAR
  • Controls on the size, location, and frequency of debris flow landslides by spatial patterns of forest root strength
  • Effects of topographic boundary condition errors on multi-dimensional computational fluid dynamics models
  • Predictions of physical/biological process interactions in channels


Bellugi, D., D. G. Milledge, W. E. Dietrich, J. A. McKean, J. T. Perron, E. B. Sudderth, and B. Kazian. 2015. A spectral clustering search algorithm for predicting shallow landslide size and location. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf. 120, doi:10.1002/2014JF003137.

Benjankar, R., Tonina, D., McKean, J., 2014. One-dimensional and two-dimensional hydrodynamic modelling derived flow properties: impacts on aquatic habitat quality predictions. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, doi: 10.1002/esp.3637

Marzadri, A., Tonina, D., McKean, J., Tiedemann, M.G., Benjankar, R.M., 2014. Multi-scale streambed topographic and discharge effects on hyporheic at the stream network scale in confined streams. Journal of Hydrology, 519 Part B, pp. 1997-2011.

McKean, J., Tonina, D., Bohn, C., Wright, C.W., 2014. Effects of bathymetric lidar errors on a multi-dimensional hydraulic model of flow and bed shear stress in a small clear-water stream. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 119 (3), 644-664, doi:10.1002/2013JF002897.

Milledge, David G.; Bellugi, Dino; McKean, Jim A.; Densmore, Alexander L.; Dietrich, William E. 2014. A multidimensional stability model for predicting shallow landslide size and shape across landscapes. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface. 119. doi:10.1002/2014JF003135.

Why This Research is Important

Airborne bathymetric LIDARs could revolutionize the way the Forest Service and other agencies manage streams. The technology may allow us to move from local samples of channel habitat toward full inventory of physical conditions in channel networks. This will support new analyses/management of aquatic habitat and species at unprecedented spatial scales.

Debris flow research will allow spatially explicit modeling of changes in the hazard of shallow landsliding caused by variations in root strength from sources such as climate change, logging, root disease, or forest insect infestations. The 3D slope stability model also allows a prediction of landslide size.

The interactions of hillslopes and their bounding channels strongly control the hazard of large landslides and the rate and style of sediment introduced to streams by the landslides. This research should improve our understanding of slide behavior and environmental consequences.


  • University of California Berkeley, Ph.D. Geology 1993
  • University of California Berkeley, M.S. Geotechnical Engineering 1981
  • Colorado State University, M.S. Geology 1977
  • Colorado State University, B.S. Geology 1973

Professional Experience

  • Project Geomorphologist, US Forest Service, Rocky Mtn. Res. Station, Air Water and Aquatic Environments Program
    2003 - Current

Professional Organizations

  • American Geophysical Union, Member (1985 - Current)
  • Geological Society of America, Member (1985 - Current)

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Last updated on : 09/03/2019