I still remember meeting Floyd for the first time. In mid-August 1994, my wife and I had arrived in Clarksville, Tennessee, where I was starting the master’s degree program in biology at Austin Peay State University (APSU). My undergraduate advisor, Dr. David “Doc” A. Easterla (Northwest Missouri State University) had recommended I consider APSU. His dear friend and colleague, Dr. David H. Snyder, was on the Department of Biology faculty and Doc and his son Todd had spent a couple of summers conducting research as part of APSU’s Center of Excellence for Field Biology (CEFB). Doc spoke highly of the CEFB and Floyd, and felt that my interest in herpetology would be a natural fit in Floyd’s lab.
Dr. Snyder and I walked down from his 2nd floor office in the Department of Biology to Floyd’s lab in the basement of the McCord building. There was Floyd, in a crisp, white, buttoned-up lab coat, sporting a neatly waxed handlebar mustache, looking over specimens with one of his students. That moment crystallized the realization that my academic life was destined to mimic The Far Side comics! Soon after that first introduction, I had the great fortune of being welcomed into Floyd’s lab and his life, marking the beginning of a fantastic mentorship and friendship that helped shape my path in life.
Arthur Floyd Scott’s (10 January 1944 to 25 April 2021) life and career were interwoven with the cultural and natural beauty of the mid-south, especially middle Tennessee. Those fortunate enough to have known Floyd as a friend, colleague, student, or mentor witnessed his enthusiasm for pursuing a life well lived, both personal and professional. This passion for life was always centered on Floyd’s dedication and love for his family.
Floyd was born in Dickson County, Tennessee, to Herman Scott and Ruby Stuart Scott, and was one of six siblings. Floyd had four brothers (James Stuart, Gus, Larry, and Lloyd) and a sister (Betty). Floyd attended Dickson High School where he and his identical twin brother Lloyd were halfbacks on the football team (1960-61). Floyd lived most of his life in Clarksville, Tennessee, with his wife Malinda Mabry-Scott and his children Stuart and Melissa Scott and their extended families.
Floyd’s formative academic years coincided with the growing national conservation and environmental movements of the 1960s and 1970s and his life’s work reflects his never-ending curiosity and dedication to our planet’s biodiversity. Floyd earned his Bachelor of Science (BS) and Master of Arts in Education (MAE) degrees in biology from APSU. His BS (1965) studies emphasized zoology and also included a Tennessee high school teaching certificate. Floyd’s MAE (1967) work was under the direction of Dr. David H. Snyder and included a minor in curriculum and instruction. Floyd’s thesis research was “A survey of the herpetofauna of Montgomery County, Tennessee.” Floyd worked under the mentorship of Dr. James L. Dobie at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, and in 1976 completed his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in zoology with an emphasis in vertebrate zoology. Floyd’s dissertation was on the “Aquatic and terrestrial movements of farm pond populations of the Eastern Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum, in east-central Alabama.”
After finishing his master’s degree, Floyd went on to be an Instructor of Biology and Curator of the Herpetology Museum (1967-1970) at the University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama. Floyd’s professional work strayed into the recesses of invertebrate zoology (aka food to a herpetologist!) during his PhD program where he also studied insect pests on vegetable crops and ornamental plants (summer 1971) and performed a terrestrial invertebrate survey on a tract of land owned by the Alabama Power Company (1973-74). On completion of his PhD, Floyd was hired as an Assistant Professor of Biology (1974-1977) at Union College, Barbourville, Kentucky. He subsequently worked as a Field Representative Zoologist (1977-1978) with the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, Frankfort, Kentucky.
In 1978, Floyd returned to Clarksville, Tennessee, to begin his career at APSU as an Assistant Professor of Biology and steadily progressed through Associate to full Professor. Over his career, Floyd taught a variety of lecture and laboratory courses including General Biology, Comparative Anatomy, General Ecology, Wildlife Management, Herpetology, Mammalogy, and Methods of Biological Research. He also served as director of the General Biology Program, Summer Field Biology Program at Land Between the Lakes, and as Curator of APSU's David H. Snyder Museum of Zoology. Floyd was a key contributor to the establishment of APSU’s CEFB and served as a principal investigator (PI) from its inception in 1986 until his retirement in 2014.
The establishment of the CEFB was a transformational achievement for APSU’s Department of Biology and had a profound impact on the center’s PIs, students, APSU, and broader region as a whole. The significant scholarly accomplishments of the CEFB were evident within its first few years and in 1989 it was recognized as an “Accomplished Center of Excellence” by the state. Floyd and his fellow PIs were fully engaged in all aspects of the CEFB. Floyd and his lab routinely supported the biennial Symposium on the Natural History of Lower Tennessee and Cumberland River Valleys, and contributed to and assisted as editor for several of the symposia proceedings.
Floyd’s research focused on developing a foundational understanding of the distribution, ecology, community dynamics, and overall natural history of the amphibians and reptiles in the mid-south, primarily in Tennessee and Kentucky. Floyd and colleagues had a very successful track record of receiving grant funding from a variety of sources including the APSU Tower Fund; Tennessee Heritage Program; Tennessee Board of Regents; Tennessee Office of The Nature Conservancy: National Parks Service; Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; Clarksville (TN) Gas and Water; and Milan Army Ammunition Plant, Milan, TN. During Floyd’s time at APSU, he had 17 students complete a thesis based master’s degree, with 15 of those students completing their degrees after the establishment of the CEFB. Over his career, Floyd published nearly 100 scientific papers, books, abstracts, symposia proceedings, and technical reports.
During Floyd’s tenure as Curator of the David H. Snyder Museum of Zoology, he worked to secure a number of smaller amphibian and reptile collections from various regional universities that were at risk of being lost to neglect. Floyd recognized and cared for not only the scientific importance of these collections, but also the personal efforts and history of the original collectors, researchers, curators, and institutions that are embodied in them. Floyd valued the deeper and richer stories these collections held; beyond simply specimens in a jar, they captured the joy and wonder of the new discoveries and deeper understanding that these collections represented. In 1999, Floyd’s efforts culminated in the acquisition of the Memphis State University collection, which nearly doubled the size of the APSU collection at the time. The APSU David H. Snyder Museum of Zoology amphibian and reptile collection is now the largest such collection in Tennessee, is the repository for thousands of voucher specimens referenced in scientific publications, and is the main repository for the state.
In close coordination with his curatorial work, Floyd and long-time friend and colleague Dr. William “Bill” H. Redmond published the Atlas of Amphibians in Tennessee in 1996. The atlas provided an exhaustive examination and documentation of the distribution, habitat, and taxonomy of the amphibians in the state. Soon after publication, Floyd worked to launch an interactive web-based version of the atlas to help foster broader public interest, collaboration, and support for amphibian conservation efforts. In 1999, the atlas website was released, and Floyd and Bill began working on the Atlas of Reptiles in Tennessee. The reptile atlas went online in 2008 and was released as a printed publication in 2016. Floyd dedicated himself to learning the technical software skills needed to serve as the website administrator to develop and maintain these sites. Floyd spent countless hours supporting the atlases and published quarterly updates to ensure they were kept current.
Floyd retired and was appointed as Professor Emeritus in 2014. He maintained a regular schedule at the university as the unpaid Amphibian and Reptile Collections Manager and in support of the atlases. Floyd remained active in the academic community, and always looked forward to the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage in Great Smoky Mountains National Park where he caught-up with life-long friend Dr. B. Eugene Wofford and led the “salamander hikes” with long-time friend John Byrd. At the time of his death, Floyd had just recently transitioned his collections manager responsibilities and was in the process of planning for the future support of his website administrator duties.
Floyd touched people’s lives. As his student, I can attest to the positive impact he had on my life, and I am certainly a better person for having known Floyd. I have seen this same impact on other students, friends, and family. Floyd always made you feel welcome, and he was very purposeful in balancing his academic and personal life. He was a gregarious person who always welcomed an opportunity to relax and have a good time with friends and family. He often spoke of these times, especially the great adventures he had with his wife Malinda and twin brother Lloyd, and was looking forward to spending more time with family and friends as he transitioned into full retirement.
While Floyd’s contributions to our understanding of the amphibians and reptiles in Tennessee and the mid-South will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy of his scholarly accomplishments, his impact on the lives that he touched, family, friends, students, and colleagues, will be carried in their memories and their hearts for the rest of their days. Floyd will be missed by many, never forgotten, and while his memory might bring a tear, it will certainly bring a smile!
Acknowledgments—I extend a heartfelt thank you to the following people, each contributed in some way to providing information, manuscript review, and overall encouragement: Dr. Joshua Ennen, Jessica T. Grady, Dr. Steven W. Hamilton, John Byrd, Dr. William H. Redmond, Dr. B. Eugene Wofford, and special thanks to Malinda Mabry-Scott and Emily Darnell. Information was also sourced from the APSU Department of Biology and CEFB websites.