Robert M. Thorson

Professor, Department of Earth Science

Robert M. Thorson is Professor of Earth Sciences at UConn where he juggles teaching, research, mentoring, and committee work. His main teaching responsibilities are to the Department of Earth Sciences, and the HonorsProgram.  For Honors, he teaches at least one first year Honors Seminars (UNIV 1784) and two Honors Core Courses per year (ERTH 1055: Geoscience and the American Landscape, and ERTH 1000E  The Human Epoch: Living in the Anthropocene). He advises and co-advises graduate committees in history, anthropology, ecology, and geoscience.  His main scholarly interest with respect to American Studies is the two-way exchange between Earthly and cultural processes.  One salient example involves the historic stone walls of New England, as recently featured in a 2023  extended essay in Smthsonian  fusing history, literature, and science.  Another is a new exhibit (Jan-July, 2024) at UConn’s Benton Museum of Art titled Seeing Climate Change? that explores the phenology of what artists paint and photograph.

His latest book project underway at Princeton University Press involves the link between Thoreau’s Walden, global sustainability, natural science, and literary criticism.  His most recent book  — The Guide to Walden Pond (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018) is the first book-length guide to the epicenter of America’s environmental consciousness.  It follows The Boatman: Henry David Thoreau’s River Years (Harvard, 2017) and Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth-Century Science (Harvard, 2014), his diptych re-assessment of Thoreau’s legacy as a natural scientist.  These four books, combined his his previous four, provide a sample of his contribution to American Studies and Environmental Studies. He pursued journalism for fifteen years between 2003 and 2018 as a regular opinion columnist for The Hartford Courant with a beat covering science, nature, and the environment. Now he writes book reviews for The Wall Street Journal and the Journal of Environmental History.  For scholarly engagement, he coordinates the Stone Wall Initiative within the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and the Stone Pavilion Project for the broader UConn community.

He is a Midwestern native, turned Northwestern geologist, turned Northeastern academic.  He commutes to work along a wooded trail and across the Great Lawn of UConn’s historic district.

Faculty Page

Contact Information
Mailing AddressEarth Sciences, U-1045, University of Connecticut
Office Location227 Beach Hall
CampusUConn Storrs