Bob Mount still revered as Auburn Biological Sciences icon
By Anna-Claire Terry
The name Dr. Bob Mount has been held in high esteem in the Auburn University Department of Biological Sciences for decades. Often referred to as an Alabama herpetology legend, Mount is responsible for the majority of the collections growth at the Auburn University Museum of Natural History. He literally wrote the book on his area of expertiese (Reptiles and Amphibians in Alabama, 1975) “They call me the snake man,” he joked.
Born in Tennessee and raised in Georgia, Mount has been intrigued by “critters” since he was a young boy. Mount’s mother passed away when he was four years old, and his father was in the Army. He lived with his aunt and uncle in Waynesboro, Tenn., for a small portion of his childhood. “It was a beautiful area with sparkling clear creeks –just an ideal place for a six-year old to play around and catch fish, turtles, crawfish and bugs,” Mount said.
On the weekends, Mount’s father would visit him in Waynesboro. “He would take me to the creek, and we would walk up and down the creek and have a big time. He taught me a lot about critters, and that’s where I developed an appreciation of wildlife and critters of all kinds,” he said.
Mount begin college at Auburn University in the fall of 1950. He received his BS in fisheries management and his MS in entomology. He then spent two years in the Army as a medical entomologist.
After his time of military service, Mount spent two years at the University of Florida earning his PhD in zoology. His first teaching job was at the University of Montevallo, where he was a professor of zoology for five years.
In 1966, Mount took his talents back to Auburn as a professor of zoology and wildlife science. His main teaching assignment was Vert Zoo 1 and Herpetology. Labs for Mount’s class required students to carpool to remote sites where they had the opportunity to gain rich experience with amphibians and reptiles. Mount is notorious for his devotion to research on Alabama and its rich herpetofauna and its preservation.
He retired in 1988 after 31 years of teaching, but still remains involved with the department at Auburn. “I still go up there once a week, but I understand they’re going to tear the building down, so I guess I’ll have to move out of my office,” Mount said.
Even after retirement, Auburn students seek the advice and guidance of Mount. Joe Jenkins, a current grad student in herpetology, occasionally meets Mount for coffee in Opelika. “Most of what we know in the herpetology community is because of him – he’s kind of a legend,” Jenkins said. “I heard he was still around Auburn, so I just had to go meet him.” Jenkins considers Mount a friend and a mentor. “Being from Alabama and interested in herpetology, I already knew who he was. Herpetology at Auburn is kind of built on the back of his work. He is the guy to go to,” Jenkins said.
Mount is married to Jane Mount, and lives in the country, near Auburn. In his spare time, Mount meets his friends for coffee in the afternoons and writes a weekly column for the Opelika Observer. He also enjoys reading and spending time observing the wildlife on his 40 acres of land.