Bob Carson was born and raised in Lexington, Virginia. Mountaineering, whitewater boating, and spelunking in Rockbridge County, Virginia and during summers in northern New England sparked his interest in geology, which he studied at Cornell University. Bob earned an MS at Tulane University while employed by Texaco, exploring for petroleum in Louisiana and phosphate in Florida. His PhD research at the University of Washington led to positions with 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 a Quaternary geologist. His advanced courses deal with late Cenozoic geologic history and climate change, surficial processes, and landform evolution. He has a half-time appointment in Whitman's environmental studies program, and is particularly interested in resources, pollution, forests, and the oceans.