Sunday, September 17, 2017

Robert "Bob" Mount

December 25, 1931 - September 10, 2017 Robert Hughes Mount, 85, Alabama herpetology legend, died September 10, 2017 following two hip-replacement surgeries and complications due to COPD. He is preceded in death by his son, Robert Mount, Jr., sisters Katherine Greenblatt and Luanne Cutchins, father Logan Mount, step-mother Ann Mount, and mother Frances Mount. He leaves behind his wife Jane of 40 years; daughter Mary Dansak and her husband Joe; granddaughters Sarah Davis (Blanton), Emma Dansak, and Anna Dansak; great-granddaughters Annabelle and Ruby Davis; and best friend Kenneth "Husky" Kirkwood. Bob was born on December 25, 1931, in Lewisburg, Tennessee. Following the death of his mother when he was four, he was cared for by his father and a great aunt until the latter's death in 1937. He then went to live with an aunt and uncle in Waynesboro, Tennessee. His father visited weekly and taught him to appreciate the natural world. Waynesboro, with its crystal clear streams and surrounding forests teeming with wildlife, was an idyllic setting for a budding naturalist. Bob's father re-married when he was ten, and he along with his father and loving stepmother settled in Jackson, Tennessee until moving to Albany, Georgia, where he attended high school. Following graduation, Bob enrolled at Auburn Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, where he received BS and MS degrees. He then served in the Army as a medical entomologist for two years in the U.S. and Korea, after which he enrolled at the University of Florida as a Ph.D. student under the direction of the late Archie Carr. There he studied zoology, and after graduating, spent five years teaching at Montevallo College in central Alabama. At Montevallo, Bob began his research on reptiles and amphibians and continued his research after transferring to Auburn University in 1966. His research ultimately resulted in the 1975 publication, The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama. It was during his tenure that the majority of reptile and amphibian collections at Auburn University grew. The herpetological collection at the AU Museum of Natural History is named after him. As a professor, Dr. Mount was known for his lab assignments which required students to visit remote areas of Alabama's wilderness and collect specimens of reptiles and amphibians. Largely due to population studies conducted by Dr. Mount and his students, two Alabama species, the Flattened Musk Turtle and the Red Hills Salamander, are now protected under the Endangered Species Act. Bob influenced a host of youngsters through community work with Boy Scouts and other organizations as well as students. His own children were allowed numerous pets including dogs, ferrets, rats and other rodents, beavers, goats, a possum, squirrels, a very special crow, orphaned birds, an alligator, snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, praying mantises, horned lizards, tarantulas, a rabbit, and once a visiting fox. His grandchildren have fond memories of time spent at his house in the country with their Papa and Janie, going on evening woods-walks, calling frogs from the frog-calling porch, flying June bugs from strings in the summertime, and playing Bessie Bug roulette. Bob retired from teaching in 1987, yet remained an advocate for natural history education and the environment. In 2001 he began writing newspaper columns with topics ranging from snake stories to politics, always as a defender of the preservation of Alabama's rich herptofauna and its natural resources. More than one reader has remarked that they no longer kill snakes indiscriminately, a testament to Bob's legacy. Additionally, Bob enjoyed frequent coffee and conversation with a group of men known as the Order of the Geezers. Bob held offices in a number of professional and environmental organizations, and received several awards including the Dudley Beaumont Fellowship for Outstanding Natural History Research, 1960; Outstanding Environmental Writer Award by the Alabama Environmental Council, 1995; J. Kelly Mosely Award for his work with the Red Hills Salamander, 1987; the Gopher Tortoise Award, 1987; and a Lifetime Environmental Achievement Award by the Southern Appalachian Coalition, 1999. The family extends thanks to the staff of EAMC and Bethany House, where Bob lived out his final six weeks of life in comfort, surrounded by dedicated caretakers and family, with frequent visits from friends, dogs, and a beautiful Eastern Indigo snake. Bob continues to serve in an educational capacity after death by being a whole-body donor to UAB's Medical School. A memorial gathering will take place at Red Clay Brewery in Opelika on Monday, October 2, 2017, from 2-5. Friends are invited to attend. Contributions can be made to the Auburn University Natural History Museum per his request. Bob's family requests that you carry on his mission by fighting for the protection of our environment, including the creeping, crawling, and slithering critters with whom we share the planet.