Jim Collinson graduated from Augustana College in 1960 and earned a Ph.D. in geology from Stanford University in 1966. He taught geology at The Ohio State University from 1966 until 1995 when he retired, but continued working in the Byrd Polar research center until 1999. His areas of research include the study of sedimentary rocks, paleontology, and Antarctic geology.
He has conducted field research in many parts of Antarctica (Beardmore Glacier area, 1969, 1985-86; Shackleton Glacier area, 1970, 1977, 1995-96; Ellsworth Mountains, 1979; northern Victoria Land, 1981-82 and southern Victoria Land, 1982, 1999). He has worked closely with vertebrate paleontologists on all these expeditions. In 1980 he received a Fulbright-Hays Senior Research Award at the University of Tasmania and Tasmanian Museum (Hobart, Australia) to study Triassic rocks in Tasmania and compare them with similar rocks in Antarctica.
In 1988 he was invited to join a basin studies group at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) to help compile a book on the Pacific margin of the Gondwana supercontinent. Since retirement he has served as a lecturer on cruise ships to Antarctica for 8 seasons.