Cutting-edge work earns Jacob Superior Service Award

January 10, 2013

By Jim Hiney

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Dr. John Jacob’s visionary approach integrating research, outreach and education to address coastal resource conservation and sustainable development issues has earned him the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s 2012 Superior Service Award in the specialist category.

Jacob, the Texas Sea Grant College Program’s Coastal Community Development Specialist and a professor in the Texas A&M University Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences (RPTS), received the award on January 8 during an awards presentation that was part of the 2013 Texas A&M AgriLife Conference. The conference was held at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center, which is part of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum complex at Texas A&M.

“I was delighted to see John being recognized for his body of work in taking the 150-year-old Extension model and using it to address coastal resource conservation and sustainable development,” said Logan Respess, Texas Sea Grant Extension Program Leader. “It is easy to take sustainable development for granted today, but it wasn’t so long ago that John’s cutting edge work was met with quite a bit of resistance from some of his peers. Today, John’s work is the model for other states to follow.”

The annual Superior Service Awards recognize AgriLife Extension faculty and staff members who provide outstanding performance in Extension education or in service to the organization. Texas Sea Grant’s Extension Program is operated jointly with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“Dr. Jacob’s inspirational leadership, brilliant innovation and entrepreneurial talent has established him as a model faculty member for the future of Extension,” said Dr. Gary Ellis, RPTS department head and one of two department faculty members who nominated Jacob for the award. “He has built an innovative, cutting-edge and virtually self-sustaining program that embodies the kind of successful urban programming that Extension needs more of in the future. His work is a splendid example of how the Extension model can be adapted to a much broader urban audience that we have hitherto reached.”

The “self-sustaining program” Ellis mentioned is the Texas Coastal Watershed Program (TCWP), which provides education and outreach to local governments and citizens on the impacts of land use on watershed health and water quality.

Jacob created the Houston-based TCWP 15 years ago and has received grants from both traditional and non-traditional funding sources to build the program from a one-man operation into a multi-discipline team comprising seven full-time staff and three graduate student interns. The Texas Coastal Watershed Program is also a cooperative effort of Texas Sea Grant and Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

“I am very gratified that our work in the TCWP is getting this recognition,” Jacob said. “This award is a reflection of my team's effort as much as it is mine.”

In his nomination letter, Ellis cited one particular TCWP team effort that exemplified how Jacob used the Land and Sea Grant platforms to serve the public.

“Because of his direct involvement in state and regional wetland issues, Dr. Jacob was well aware of a lack of data that would clarify how freshwater wetlands protected water quality in estuaries such as Galveston Bay,” Ellis wrote. “Dr. Jacob engaged his research team to address this issue. The research was published in the premier scientific journal on wetlands. Dr. Jacob subsequently produced an accessible fact sheet that became an invaluable resource to scientists and decision makers throughout the region. The results of the research are under review by the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers, and promise to have a major impact on how wetlands are regulated.”

Jacob’s impressive body of work integrating conservation and sustainable community development also earned him the prestigious 2012 Terry Hershey Award for Excellence from the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University. Named in honor of Houston’s grande dame of conservation, the Hershey Award recognizes excellence in park, recreation or natural resources contributions to Texas, the region and/or the nation, as well as support for education and innovations as a leader in natural resource protection.


Dr. John Jacob accepts his 2012 Superior Service Award from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Director Dr. Doug Steele during a presentation ceremony Jan. 8 at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University. (Photo by Jim Hiney)


Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.