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Columbia's underwater professor

Dr. Jonathan Robinson doubles as both a biology and anatomy instructor at Columbia College. He also is an avid scuba diver and heads to the coast frequently. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).
Dr. Jonathan Robinson doubles as both a biology and anatomy instructor at Columbia College. He also is an avid scuba diver and heads to the coast frequently. (Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2003, The Union Democrat).

By CLAIRE ST. JOHN

Dr. Jonathan Robinson's journey to Tuolumne County is long and convoluted, but everywhere he's been, he's found himself viewing the world from underwater.

Robinson's family moved from England to the Bay Area when he was 14.

Schooling took him from Georgia to Louisiana and from Boston to Montana. Scuba diving and writing papers on a wide variety of scientific subjects filled his spare moments.

Robinson found himself in Tuolumne County two years ago. And yesterday the 38-year-old started teaching animal biology and a human anatomy lab at Columbia College.

Robinson's journey to science was no straight path. In high school, he found the subject dull — except for an anthropology course on African pygmies.

In fact, Robinson graduated from high school with a D average.

"I grew up in England and I got to the states and was so into having a good time," Robinson said. "I was a problem child."

But a stint in the Army and a growing interest in science convinced Robinson to turn his study habits around. Hard work finally led to a doctorate from Harvard University.

After studying iris genetics in the swamps of Louisiana, protozoans on Sapelo Island off the Georgia coast and the anthrax toxin in Boston, he landed a job at a large Central Valley winery where he was responsible for the microbial sanitation of approximately 60 million cases of wine a year.

Two years ago, he moved to Crystal Falls and commuted to the Modesto winery until he was laid off when the company reorganized.

Robinson then went to work for the Tuolumne County Department of Environmental Health and continues to work there while serving as a part-time professor at Columbia College.

Although Tuolumne County is not the ideal place for his scuba diving passion ("too far away from the ocean"), Robinson said he'll stick around for the fly fishing, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Trips to Monterey and Fort Ross fulfill a need to scuba dive and when Robinson gets desperate in the foothills, he'll submerge in Tulloch Reservoir or the Stanislaus River.


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