Robert H. Barth was a long-time member of Travis Audubon Society (TAS). He died on September 26, 2022 and will be deeply missed and fondly remembered by hundreds of students, friends, colleagues, family and especially by his life-partner Noreen Damude.
Bob was, above all, a scientist. He was also a serious conservationist. For decades he was a well-known and very popular professor of Zoology (Entomology and Ornithology) at The University of Texas at Austin. He once remarked to me that his greatest honor was that in 2017, one of his students received a Nobel Prize*, and Bob was invited to the Nobel Prize event. Very few people in the world can say that!
*“The remarkable similarity between the fruit fly and humans was also revealed by the work of the 2017 Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine. Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael W. Young used Drosophila to uncover molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. Their discoveries explain how living organisms synchronize their biological rhythm with the turning of the Earth.” With a little help from our (insect) friends – NobelPrize.org
Bob was an expert entomologist with numerous publications including the landmark book The Invertebrate World, published in 1982.
Bob was also an expert botanist and co-founder of the Austin Cactus and Succulent Society that helped establish drought-resilient gardens and landscapes throughout Central Texas.
I met Bob through TAS in the early 1980s when we both helped with documenting county-wide bird records. He served on the TAS Board of Directors and expended much energy over many years to help purchase more land for the Golden-cheeked Warbler. Bob joins Ed Kutac and Marjorie and Red Adams as huge contributors to the TAS bird data base, as well as constant mentors and teachers to us all.
I took Bob’s ornithology course at UT and, thanks to much assistance from Bob’s longtime friend and colleague Bret Whitney, we began to offer TAS birding tours to see neotropical species beyond the US borders. I spoke Spanish, so I helped set up the tours. We co-led TAS birding tours and field trips throughout Mexico, Central, and northern South America.
Bob was also my PhD supervising professor, assisting in all aspects of my work, even managing to acquire Ant Thrush specimens from the vertebrate collections of his alma mater (Harvard University) and successfully sending them to my field site in Venezuela.
His years of retirement were spent primarily among his friends and colleagues while tending his extensive and famous succulent and cactus gardens in Austin.
A memorial service for Bob is being planned to be held at the Austin Botanical Garden probably in the spring 2023.
Bob leaves behind a tremendous list of achievements for science and the natural world. We will miss him, his knowledge, his dedication, and his wry sense of humor.
By Jane A. Lyons