Robert Evans Carlson

July 28, 1944 ~ July 31, 2023 (age 79) 79 Years Old


Robert Evans Carlson, 79, of Kent passed away on July 31, 2023 after living with Parkinson’s disease and multiple myeloma.  Bob was the beloved husband of Ann (Blomberg) for 55 years; loving father and father-in-law of Eric Carlson of Lake Oswego, Oregon and Linnea (Carlson) and Thomas Stafford of Kent; and grandfather to Ash, Ellie and Ingrid.  He was preceded in death by his parents, Evans and Clara (Anderson) Carlson.

A native Floridian, Bob was born in Miami in 1944. He attended Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota.  He met Ann and romance bloomed as the two biology majors worked in the lab and spent summers collecting specimens. They married in 1968 in Rock Island, Illinois.  

Bob finished his time as a Gustie with a degree in Biology and then became a Golden Gopher at University of Minnesota where he earned his M.S. in Entomology and a Ph.D. in Ecology.  He held a postdoc position at McGill University in Montreal at the time Quebec made the transition to having French as the official language.  Perhaps because he only knew enough French to order a ham sandwich, Bob returned to the U.S. and became a Biological Sciences faculty member at Kent State University.  He settled down in Kent and retired from KSU in 2010 as an Emeritus Professor having served 35 years at the University.

Bob’s research was in ecology and limnology, the study of inland bodies of water such as lakes, wetlands, and rivers.  He was internationally known for his development of the Carlson Trophic State Index (TSI), a classification scale for measuring lake biomass and health.  The TSI is used around the world and is a standard measure used by the EPA.

Bob also created the Great Secchi Dip-In, an annual event that enlisted volunteers to measure lake transparency across North America, providing valuable data about the health of our nation’s bodies of water.  He was crowdsourcing before that even became a word.

As an educator, Bob was invested in developing America’s next generation of water quality specialists but also loved teaching undergraduate courses for non-Biology majors.  He loved the opportunity to introduce students to concepts of biology, evolution and ecology and hoped to inspire an appreciation for scientific thinking.

Bob was an active member of the United Church of Christ in Kent.  He grew up as the son of a Lutheran pastor and loved singing in the choir at the Kent UCC.  He had an eclectic set of enthusiasms, ranging from Civil War history to collecting records, vintage toys, robots, fountain pens and glass bottles.  Not surprisingly given his career researching water quality, he loved spending time at the family cabin on Clearwater Lake—the clearest lake in Minnesota (or so he said).

Many heartfelt thanks to the staff of Hudson Grande and Traditions Hospice for the wonderful care they provided in the last phase of his life. In honor of Bob’s life in science, his brain was donated to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center.   A celebration of his life will be held on SATURDAY, November 4, 2023 at 2:00P.M. at the Kent United Church of Christ, 1400 E. Main St. Kent, OH 44240.

Donations in Robert’s memory may be made to the Dr. Robert E. Carlson Scholarship in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Kent State University.  This scholarship offers stipends for students to travel to professional conferences, reflecting his passion for helping students in their studies and professional careers.  Gifts to this scholarship fund can be made payable to:  THE KENT STATE UNIVERSITY FOUNDATION Address: THE KENT STATE UNIVERSITY FOUNDATION; Attn:  Gift Processing; P.O. Box 5190; 350 S. Lincoln St.  Kent, Ohio 44242.

Services in care of Bissler and Sons Funeral Home and Crematory. 628 W. Main St. Kent, OH 44240.

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Celebration of Life
November 4, 2023

2:00 PM
Kent United Church of Christ
1400 E. Main Street
Kent, OH
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