Two oceanography grad students to receive Rayburn Scholarship

July 19, 2017

By Jessica Scarfuto

Two Texas A&M University oceanography graduate students have been selected to receive the Ralph Rayburn Texas Sea Grant Scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year.

Xiaoqing Liu and Luz Zarate will each receive $500 from the fund established to honor the Texas Sea Grant College Program’s late Associate Director and Extension Program Leader, who died unexpectedly in 2008. The scholarship is administered by the university’s Department of Oceanography in the College of Geosciences and is awarded to outstanding graduate students within the department.

Liu is a Ph.D. student studying paleoceanography, paleoclimatology and marine geochemistry. She has a master’s degree in marine geology from Tongji University in China and a bachelor’s degree in marine science from the China University of Geosciences. “I am honored to receive the Rayburn scholarship,” she said. “My current research focuses on reconstructing the sea surface temperatures of the Western Pacific Warm Pool starting from approximately 20 million years ago.”

Zarate, a master’s degree student studying the use of oceanographic instrumentation to improve the understanding of ocean circulation along the Texas coast, has a bachelor’s degree in geophysical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has been on four research cruises totaling 47 days at sea and was recently selected to participate in a 45-day-long oceanographic cruise from Tahiti to Chile. “As part of my master's thesis, I am analyzing data from the first high-frequency radar system installed on the Texas coast,” she said. “A better understanding of ocean circulation will contribute to the enhancement of oceanographic models to benefit coastal hazard mitigation, fisheries, the oil industry and marine navigation.”

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Rayburn first joined Texas Sea Grant in 1978 as a marine agent for Aransas and San Patricio counties. After several years as Executive Director of the Texas Shrimp Association and in a number of roles at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, he returned to Texas Sea Grant in 1999. Through his association with these three organizations, he worked tirelessly for the protection of Texas' marine resources, but he is also remembered for his integrity, professionalism, work ethic and outgoing personality.


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.