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Jonathan Gilligan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Associate Professor, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Director, Vanderbilt's Climate and Society Grand Challenge Initiative


Dr. Jonathan Gilligan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences and Associate Professor in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Vanderbilt University. He is director of Vanderbilt’s Climate and Society Grand Challenge Initiative. He earned his B.A. in Physics from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in Physics from Yale University. He was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate at the National Institute for Standards and Technology and led a team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration studying stratospheric ozone depletion. Gilligan’s research focuses on the interactions between human society and the environment and he works with collaborative interdisciplinary teams to understand the ways that individual-level thinking and behavior connects to large-scale collective behavior and influences both the impact of society upon the environment and also the vulnerability or resilience of society in the face of environmental change. His work makes extensive use of Bayesian statistical methods, geospatial statistical analysis, and agent-based computational modeling. He has published one book and 96 scholarly articles and holds two patents. His work has been recognized with a NASA Group Achievement Award, a NOAA Outstanding Scientific Paper Award, the 2017 Morrison Prize for the highest impact paper of the year on sustainability law and policy, and a Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Research Award. His book, Beyond Politics: The Private Governance Response to Climate Change was named by the Environmental Forum as one of the most important books on environmental policy of the last 50 years. Two of his recent papers are:

  • ┬áJ.M. Gilligan and M.P. Vandenbergh, “Beyond wickedness: Managing complex systems and climate change,” Vanderbilt Law Review 73, 1177-1810 (2020).
  • A.R. Carrico, K.M. Donato, K. Best, & J. Gilligan, “Extreme weather and marriage among girls and women in Bangladesh,” Global Environmental Change 65, 102160 (2020).