Condensed Vitae

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Robert M. Thorson is Professor of Geosciences at the University of Connecticut where he juggles teaching, scholarship, and service within the Department of Geosciences (Earth Sciences), the Honors Program, and other units. He’s garnered awards for science, teaching, journalism, and writing.  Originally a Midwestern native, he transformed into a Northwestern field geologist before transforming, once again, into a Northeastern academic. Visiting scholarly appointments include Harvard University (American Studies, 2017)), Universidad Tecnica de Santa Maria, Valparaiso, Chile (Civil Engineering, 1998), Dartmouth College (Geography, 1992) and Yale University (History, 1990). In 2014 he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America for original research and professional service.  From 2020-2021 he served as Interim Head of the Department of Geosciences to help guide its transition between the former incarnation as the Center for Integrative Geosciences (2004-2019) to its future incarnation as the Department of Earth Sciences (effective July 1, 2022). Having finished that administrative work, he has returned to scholarship with a focus on honors education and communication in Earth Sciences.

During the dissolution of the former Department of Geology & Geophysics in 2003, Thorson’s veered toward journalism, environmental history, and scholarly engagement as a professor, author, speaker, journalist, critic, and consultant.  One step was toward journalism, publishing nearly 600 essays and articles, 492 in the Hartford Courant, the state’s flagship, capitol-city daily, where he served as an award-winning regular opinion columnist.  Another was toward scholarly engagement, through the Stone Wall Initiative, an online resource/blog for historic landscape conservation within the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History. The step toward environmental history involved being elected to the American Antiquarian Association in 2018 after authoring 7 books, two by Harvard University Press for humanities scholars on Henry D. Thoreau’s 19th century science.  He’s now a frequent book reviewer for the journal Environmental History and a regular reviewer for the Wall Street Journal, where the circulation is 3.6 million.

His books include: The Guide To Walden Pond (2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau’s River Years (2017, Harvard University Press) and Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth Century Science (2014, Harvard University Press), Beyond Walden: The Hidden History of America’s Kettle Lakes and Ponds (2009, Bloomsbury), Exploring Stone Walls: A Field Guide to New England’s Stone Walls (2005, Walker & Co.) and Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England Stone Walls (2002, Walker & Company), and Stone Wall Secrets, co-authored with Kristine Thorson  and illustrated by Gustave Moore (1998, Tilbury House).


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Ph.D. 1979, Geology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.  — M.S.  1975, Geology,  University of Alaska Fairbanks, AK.  — B.S.   1973, Earth Science Teaching,  State College, Bemidji, MN.



  • Permanent: Professor, Department of Geosciences (Earth Sciences), University of Connecticut  (1984-2018). Formerly Associate Professor, University of Alaska  (1980-1984, Fairbanks), and Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin (1979, Oshkosh).
  • Visiting : Harvard University (American Studies 2013), Universidad Technica Santa Maria (Chile; American Studies, 1998), Dartmouth College (Geography, 1992), Yale University (History, 1991).


  • Geologist: United States Geological Survey (1974-1979), Branch of Earthquake Hazards (Juneau, AK); Alaska Branch (Menlo Park, CA, Branch of Western Environmental Geology (Seattle, WA)


Seven published non-fiction books (2003-2018), and four scholarly monographs.  The Guide to Walden Pond (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018), The Boatman (Harvard University Press, 2017), Walden’s Shore (Harvard University Press, 2014), Beyond Walden (Bloomsbury/Walker, 2009), Exploring Stone Walls (Walker, 2005), Stone by Stone (Walker, 2003), Stone Wall Secrets (co-authored with Kristine Thorson, Tilbury House, 1998).


  • ~600 essays and opinion columns, mainly for the Hartford Courant (2003-2018).
  • Blogger and coordinator for the Stone Wall Initiative 


Forensic history, museum design, boundary disputes, land use issues, stone walls.

Speaker/Trip Leader

Hundreds of talks, workshops, professional trainings, and field trips, mostly for nonprofit associations and government agencies, usually on environmental history.

Honors & Awards

Solo and shared awards for nonfiction books, journalism, teaching, and scientific research.  Highlights include being an elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America and recipient of the Connecticut Book Award for nonfiction.

Photo:  Cover of Walden’s Shore, my most in-depth scholarly work, 421 pages of material vetted by Harvard University Press and widely reviewed by specialists.