Community of Readers speaker to discuss biological effects of hurricanes

The University of Houston-Victoria School of Arts & Sciences will host the third in a series of its Community of Readers forums from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday with a biology expert discussing a hurricane’s effects on biology and wildlife.

Ray Kirkwood, Mid-Coast Master Naturalist, will give the presentation in the UHV University Center Multi-Purpose Room, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The public is invited to attend the free forum.

Kirkwood is a certified master naturalist and conducts whooping crane tours and does volunteer work at area wildlife refuges. He will bring a wealth of knowledge of the Coastal Bend’s flora and fauna as to how they are affected by and respond to hurricanes.

“I’ll take a look at historic hurricanes that came ashore and show how quickly nature recovered from these events,” Kirkwood said. “In a pristine environment along the shore, a hurricane will do damage, but the damage is short-term. Mother Nature puts things back together very quickly.”

Kirkwood said man’s footprint, including roads and buildings, can even cause hurricane destruction to be worse.

“When we start cutting channels and adding buildings, we destroy nature’s ability to respond and recuperate,” he said.

Kirkwood, who worked as a physicist and defense contractor, retired in 1999 and recently became one of only 19 master naturalists in the state to reach the 5,000-hour milestone. He was honored with the Lifetime U.S. Presidential Volunteer Service Award for his service as a Texas Master Naturalist.

Community of Readers is a series of events during the 2010-11 school year to connect readers and the academic community and to promote the importance of books to students in the digital age. The first program in October featured representatives from the Galveston County Historical Museum. A talk in February saw former newspaper columnists Henry and Linda Wolff talk about major storms that have affected the area.

“Isaac’s Storm” by Erik Larson is a common reading book chosen for the Community of Readers program. The book is available for purchase at local and online retailers, and copies are available to check out at the Victoria College/UHV Library and the Victoria Public Library.

The Community of Readers committee members stress how the book has science, sociology, psychology, weather and more.

“We learn a lot more than just the history of the storm,” said Elizabeth “Libby” Rhoades, Community of Readers chairwoman. “Since we are close to the coast, it is a relevant book for students and the community to read.”

Rhoades said all UHV freshmen received the book and are expected to read it.

For more information, visit or email Other committee members are UHV faculty and staff members Charles Alcorn III, Dmitri Sobolev, Alireza Tavakkoli and Casey Akins.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Ken Cooke 361-570-4342