Editor’s note: Steve K. Alexander, a marine biologist and adjunct professor at Texas A&M University at Galveston, recently published “Exploring Galveston: A Naturalist’s Guide to the Island,” now available locally at Galveston Bookshop. He talked with The Daily News about his book.
Q. Readers of The Daily News are going to find this book familiar. It began as a series of columns in the newspaper, didn’t it? Please refresh our memory: How did this all get started?
A. Yes, the stories were part of The Daily News nature series “Naturally Speaking.” The 25 stories chosen for the book deal with Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula.
Q. We have some excellent books on birds and other aspects of nature. But this is “a naturalist’s guide” — it has a bit of everything: geology, plants, ecology. What was your goal in taking that approach?
A. I guess I’m a naturalist at heart, taking in everything I see. I think most people do the same thing, and for that reason, believe the book will resonate with many. Probably the only difference is I write about what I see.
Q. You are a graduate of Ball High School and have deep roots in Galveston, and one of the concerns you’ve raised is about the gradual loss of natural habitat. Was that part of the reason for writing this book?
A. Yes. We have a natural gem but are slowly losing it. To illustrate: A friend called asking about big birds nesting for the first time in live oaks near her home in Galveston. They were yellow-crowned night herons. These birds don’t typically nest in city neighborhoods miles from water. No doubt they were nesting in her neighborhood because their preferred nesting sites near water were now gone.
Q. The book is well-illustrated — and you took almost all the photographs. If you had to pick one as your best or most interesting, which would it be?
A. With over 100 color photographs, it’s hard to choose just one. But that one would have to be the cover photo. I have a devotion to salt marshes, having walked many since my graduate school days at Louisiana State University.
Q. Your daughter Melissa Weber is an editor by profession and edited the book. How was that — working with a member of the family?
A. Working with my daughter was great. For nine months, she stopped her own work whenever her father called to talk about the book. If readers find elements in the book to their liking or features that are helpful, it’s a good bet they originated with my daughter and not me. And I can thank her for finding a designer with such great talent.
Q. The book is dedicated to Dr. Sammy Ray, a legendary scientist and teacher at Texas A&M University at Galveston. How did he influence you?
A. Dr. Ray was a role model for me. I first met him in 1977 while a post-doctorate. From those early days, I fondly recall his tenacity at the ping-pong table. More recently, I occasionally visited him in his Sea Aggie Center lab, still working at the age of 90-plus. TAMUG owes much to Dr. Ray, as do the 24,000 children who have gone through the Sea Camp program he founded in 1986. To honor Dr. Ray’s memory, proceeds from the book will benefit Sea Camp scholarships.