Jacob Arnold, a Master of Science student studying oceanography, will receive the 2020 Ralph Rayburn ’69 Texas Sea Grant Scholarship.
Arnold’s love for the ocean began at a young age, and his curiosity grew over the years. “I became interested in studying oceanography simply because of my love of the ocean and interest in its processes,” he said.
Within oceanography, Arnold has a variety of interests, including glacial activity and the impact of glaciers on climate change. His current research combines this fascination with glaciers with his curiosity for the unique characteristics of Southern Ocean water masses.
The Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, is globally important because it is the only location in which all the world’s oceans are able to mix. Additionally, the region is home to Antarctica, which holds a vast amount of freshwater in ice. This freshwater flows toward the edges of the continent as ice sheets and glaciers, which contact the southernmost portion of the Southern Ocean. Dense, deep waters are produced in these regions, which then flow to the deepest parts of the world’s oceans.
“This process causes changes in water characteristics, such as temperature and salinity,” Arnold explained. “These changes in water characteristics can indicate large-scale climate processes, such as warming trends and glacial melt, which can lead to rising sea levels.”
Further, studying how freshwater interacts with Southern Ocean water masses, and how those interactions affect Antarctica, can help researchers such as Arnold identify specific mechanisms that may be causing global temperature trends that affect glacial melt and sea level changes. In other words, Arnold’s research is important because answers to questions about climate change may be found in the depths of the ocean.
After Arnold graduates in December 2021, he plans to immediately begin pursuing his PhD in oceanography so that he can acquire a position in academia. “As a professor, I hope to do the two things I love: teaching and researching,” Arnold said. “I am incredibly grateful to have been awarded the scholarship as it will contribute significantly to my academic focus.”
This scholarship is named in honor of Ralph Rayburn ’69. 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 as the Associate Director and Extension Program Leader. 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.