Robert J. Carson, Phillips Professor of Geology and Environmental Studies

A.B., Cornell University, 1963 (senior thesis on Tolley's Cave, Rockbridge County, Virginia)

M.S., Tulane University, 1967 (thesis on stratigraphy of Ordovician limestones, Virginia)

Ph.D., University of Washington, 1970 (dissertation on Quaternary geology of Olympic Peninsula, Washington)


Bob Carson was born and raised in Lexington, Virginia. Mountaineering, whitewater boating, and spelunking in Virginia and during summers in New England sparked his interest in geology. His professional geologic career began with Texaco, exploring for petroleum in Louisiana and phosphate in Florida. He also worked as a geologist for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources.

Bob's teaching career began at North Carolina State University and then at the University of Oregon. He joined the faculty at Whitman College in 1975. He considers himself an environmental geologist and a Quaternary geologist. His advanced courses (geomorphology, glacial geology, climate change, and water resources) deal with late Cenozoic geologic history, surficial processes, landform evolution, and environmental problems. He has a half-time appointment in Whitman's environmental studies program, and is particularly interested in resources, pollution, forests, and the oceans. His passions include mountaineering, volcanoes, and whitewater.

Bob has taught on the Semester-At-Sea program twice, and has directed foreign study programs in London, England, and in Asturias, Spain. Most of his research is on Quaternary geology in Washington, northeastern Oregon, northwestern Wyoming, and Mongolia.

Academic Aids:

Oral Presentations
Field Notebooks

Foreign Field Trips:

Kenya: The Serengeti to Mt. Kenya, December 2009-January 2010

The Southern Andes, January 2009:
Aconcagua, Cerro Torre and Glaciar Grande, Fitz Roy, Torres Del Paine

Costa Rica, January 2008
Norway and Spitsbergen, July 2007
Tibet, June 2005

Bulgaria and Italy, May-June 2004
Iceland and Greenland, July-August 2002
Ecuador: the Galapagos and the Andes, March 2002  
Africa, June-July 2001

Andes of Peru and Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, March 2000

Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia, August 1999
Costa Rica, January 1999
Montserrat and Dominica, Antilles, January 1997

Recent research with Whitman students:
2009 Terracettes: Mammals or Mass Wasting?
2008 Quaternary Tectonic and Geomorphic Evolution of the Deluun Nuruu, Mongolian Altai, Western Mongolia
2006 Geology of the Hangay Mountains, Central Mongolia
2005 Saddle Mountain Faults, Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Geology of the Kharkhiraa Mountains, Mongolian Altai


Geology of the Gobi (Desert), southern Mongolia

2002 Quaternary geology of the Albion Range, south-central Idaho
Cirque containing Independence Lakes
Bob and snowfield, with Mount Independence in background
Snowfield on Cache Peak, with tunnel that a rodent filled with soil
Inactive rock glacier on Cache Peak

Glacial geology of northern Mongolia

 Summary and Pictures

2000, 1998 

Geomorphology in front of the Mendenhall, Herbert, and Eagle Glaciers, Juneau Icefield, Alaska 
Mendenhall Lake and Mendenhall Glacier.
Todd by meandering meltwater on the Mendenhall Glacier.


Late Cenozoic evolution of the John Day and Grande Ronde Rivers, northeastern Oregon and adjacent Washington

Matt and Molly considering "wise use".

Cutoff incised meander on the Grande Ronde River.


Geology of Steamboat Rock, Grand Coulee, Washington

Steamboat Rock, Banks Lake, and upper Grand Coulee.

Granitic 'erratic" boulder on top of Steamboat Rock.


Glacial geology of the Elkhorn Mountains, northeastern Oregon

Pinedale (inner) and Bull Lake (outer) lateral moraines at mouth of North Powder River glacial trough.

Roche moutonÈe by Antone Creek.


Glacial geology of the Clarks Fork lobe of the Yellowstone ice sheet, Absaroka and Beartooth Ranges, northwestern Wyoming and adjacent Montana

Grasshopper Glacier from Mt. Rearguard, Beartooth Mountains.

Ice-rafted granite boulder above the floor of ancient Glacial Lake Sunlight.

Selected Publications:


Click to order East of Yellowstone and Where The Great River Bends from Keokee Books

Selected publications:

Frankel, K. L., K. W. Wegmann, A. Bayasgalan, R. J. Carson, N. E. Bader, T. Adiya, E. Bolor, C. C. Durfey, J. Otgonkhuu, J. Sprajcar, K. E. Sweeney, R. T. Walker, T. L. Marstellar, and L. Gregory, 2010, Late Pleistocene slip rate of the Höh Serh–Tsagaan Salaa fault system, Mongolian Altai and intracontinental deformation in central Asia: Geophysical Journal International, v. 183, issue 3, p. 1134-1150.

Polenz, Michael, J. L. Czajkowski, G. L. Paulin, T. A. Contreras, B. A. Miller, M. E. Martin, T. J. Walsh, R. L. Logan, R. J. Carson, C. N. Johnson, R. H. Skov, S. A. Mahan, and C. R. Cohan, 2010, Geologic map of the Skokomish Valley and Union 7.5-minute quadrangles, Mason County, Washington: Wash. Div. of Geology and Earth Resources Open-File Report 2010-3, scale 1:24,000, with 21 p. text.

Contreras, T. A., G. L. Paulin, J. L. Czajkowski, M. Polenz, R. L. Logan, R. J. Carson, S. A. Mahan, T. J. Walsh, C. N. Johnson, and R. H. Skoy, 2010, Geologic map of the Lilliwaup 7.5-minute quadrangle, Mason County, Washington: Wash. Div. of Geology and Earth Resources Open File Report 2010-4, 27.5 x 36 in. color sheet, scale 1:24,000, with 13 p. text.

Carson, R.J., 2010, East of Yellowstone: Geology of Clarks Fork Valley and the Nearby Beartooth and Absaroka Mountains: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Books, 166 p.

Carson, Bob, and Scott Babcock, 2009, Hiking Guide to Washington Geology: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Books, 272 p.

Carson, R.J., ed., 2008, Where the Great River Bends: The Columbia at Wallula: Sandpoint, Idaho, Keokee Co. Publishing, Inc.

Walker, R.T., A. Bayasgalan, R. Carson, R. Hazlett, L. McCarthy, J. Mischler, E. Molor, P. Sarantsetseg, L. Smith, B. Tsogtbadrakh, and G. Tsolmon, 2006, Geomorphology and structure of the Jid right-lateral strike-slip fault in the Mongolian Altay mountains: Journal of Structural Geology, v. 28, p. 1607-1622.

Carson, R.J., 2001, Where the Rockies meet the Columbia Plateau:  Geologic field trip from the Walla Walla Valley to the Wallowa Mountains, Oregon:  Oregon Geology, v. 63, no. 1, p. 13-hikingguide16, 21-35. 

Crosby, C.J., and R.J. Carson, 1999, Geology of Steamboat Rock, Grand Coulee, Washington: Washington Geology, v. 27, no. 2/3/4, p. 3-8.

Carson, R. J., and K. R. Pogue, 1996, Flood basalts and glacier floods: roadside geology of parts of Walla Walla, Franklin, and Columbia Counties, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Information Circular 90, 47p.

Spencer, P. K., and R. J. Carson, 1995, The Enterprise Gravel: the ancestral Wallowa River and neotectonism in northeastern Oregon, Northwest Science, v. 69, no. 1, p. 60-71.

Carson, R. J., and J. L. Sadd, 1991, Land-use planning writing assignment for environmental-geology course: Journal of Geological Education, v. 39, p. 206-213.

Carson, R.J., 1988, The natural history of Saddle Mountain, Clatsop County, Oregon: Cumtux (Clatsop County Historical Society Quarterly), v. 8, no. 3, p. 2-14.

Easterbrook, D. J., J. L. Roland, R. J. Carson, and N. D. Naeser, 1988, Applications of paleomagnetism, fission-track dating, and tephra correlation to Lower Pleistocene sediments in the Puget Lowland, Washington: in D. J. Easterbrook, ed., Dating Quaternary sediments: Geological Society of America Special Paper 227, p. 139-165.

Westgate, J. A., D. J. Easterbrook, N. D. Naeser, R. J. Carson, 1987, Lake Tapps tephra: an early Pleistocene stratigraphic marker in the Puget Lowland, Washington: Quaternary Research, v. 28, p. 340-355.

Carson, R. J., T. L. Tolan, and S. P. Reidel, 1987, Geology of the Vantage area, south-central Washington: An introduction to the Miocene flood basalts, Yakima Fold Belt, and the Channeled Scabland: Geological Society of America Centennial Field Guide - Cordilleran Section, p. 357-362.

Carson, R. J., 1987, Creation of our scenic wonders (geology of the south coast of Clatsop County, Oregon): Cumtux (Clatsop County Historical Society Quaterly), v. 7, no. 2, p. 2-13.

Carson, R. J., 1984, Ground and aerial photography for monitoring and predicting volcanic activity, with emphasis on the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington, in Renewable resources management, applications of remote sensing: Falls Church, Virginia, American Society of Photogrammetry, p. 647-654.

Grimstad, Peder, and R. J. Carson, 1981, Geology and ground-water resources of eastern Jefferson County, Washington: Washington Department of Ecology Water Supply Bull. 54, 125 p.

Wilson, J. R., M. J. Bartholomew, and R. J. Carson, 1979, Late Quaternary faults and their relationship to tectonism in the Olympic Peninsula, Washington: Geology, v. 7, p. 235-239.

Carson, R. J., C. F. McKhann, and M. H. Pizey, 1978, The Touchet beds of the Walla Walla Valley, in V. R. Baker and Dag Nummedal, eds., The Channeled Scabland, a guide to the geomorphology of the Columbia Basin, Washington: Office of Space Science, N.A.S.A., Washington, D.C., p. 173-177.

Smith, Mackey, and R.J. Carson, 1977, Relative slope stability of the southern Hood Canal area, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Map I-853-F.  

Carson, R. J., Mackey Smith, and B.L. Foxworthy, 1975, Geologic conditions related to waste-disposal planning in the southern Hood Canal area, Washington: U.S. Geological Survey Map I-853 D.

Eddy, Paul, and R.J. Carson, 1973, Geohydrology of the Chehalis River Valley, Elma to Oakville, Grays Harbor County, Washington: Washington Department of Ecology Monograph No. 3.

Porter, S.C., and R.J. Carson, 1971, Problems of interpreting radiocarbon dates from dead-ice terrain, with an example from the Puget Lowland of Washington: Quaternary Research, v. 1, p. 410-414.

Carson, R.J., 1968, Physical stratigraphy of the post Beekmantown pre Liberty Hall limestones, central Rockbridge County, Virginia: Tulane Studies in Geology, v. 6, no. 2, p. 41-70.

Carson, R.J., 1964, Tolley's Cave: Virginia Minerals, v. 10, no. 1, p.1-6.