New Extension director to reinvent program for 21st Century Coast

April 02, 2013

By Jim Hiney

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The man chosen to lead the Texas Sea Grant College Program’s extension program says he wants to put the power of university research into the hands of Texas' coastal citizens.

Prominent Houston-based coastal development expert John Jacob, who became Director of Texas Sea Grant Extension Program on April 1, said he intends to apply the cooperative extension model to issues facing Texas’ increasingly urban coast. Cooperative extension was created almost a century ago as a means of disseminating knowledge gained at Land Grant institutions to the farmers, ranchers and homemakers who could best use the information. The same model was applied to coastal science when Congress created Sea Grant in 1966. Much of the information from both Land and Sea Grant research focused on improving the yields of commercially valuable goods.

“I believe in the good and noble tradition of cooperative extension, which was built upon universities in the service of people,” said Jacob, who was Texas Sea Grant’s Coastal Development Specialist before assuming his new duties. “But why should this service be confined to production, whether it be fisheries or agricultural commodities?”

Jacob has garnered much attention for coastal development issues through his very successful Texas Coastal Watershed Program, a cooperative effort of Texas Sea Grant and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service that provides education and outreach to local governments and citizens on the impacts of land use on watershed health and water quality. He has pioneered the use of innovative coastal planning tools like the weTable and the Community Health and Resources Management (CHARM) computer model.

The weTable combines a laptop computer, a projector, a light pen and a Nintendo Wii remote to transform an ordinary tabletop into an interactive computer interface that community leaders and members of the public can use together to more effectively plan community growth well into the future.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Jacob has accepted the position to lead Texas Sea Grant’s Extension Program,” said Dr. Pamela Plotkin, Texas Sea Grant Director. “John has been a core contributor to its growth, building a successful research and extension project in Houston that serves as a model within Texas and across our nation. I look forward to working with John to expand our extension program and to help Texas Sea Grant reach greater heights.”

Jacob’s impressive body of work integrating conservation and sustainable community development earned him a prestigious 2012 Superior Service Award from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and the 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.

Jacob holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Tech University, and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, all in soils and natural resources. He is registered as a Professional Geoscientist with the State of Texas and is a Professional Wetland Scientist. In addition to his work with Texas Sea Grant, Jacob is a professor in Texas A&M’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Sciences. He will administer his new duties from his existing office in Houston.


Dr. John Jacob (foreground, left) teaches Texas Master Naturalists about soils during a training workshop in the Houston area. Jacob, a prominent coastal development expert, became Director of Texas Sea Grant Extension Program on April 1. (Photo courtesy Texas Sea Grant)


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.