Alaska Sea Grant says goodbye to longtime editor

One of Alaska Sea Grant’s longest-serving employees is preparing to move on.

After 35 years working for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Sue Keller will retire on June 29. Since 1988 Keller has told Alaska Sea Grant’s story in newsletters and reports, and edited many publications that fill the Alaska Sea Grant (ASG) bookstore.

“It has been my privilege to be part of the university and Alaska Sea Grant all these years. I have enjoyed writing about the high energy faculty and staff and being part of publications production,” said Keller.

Keller was originally hired as a staff editor and was promoted to publications manager after working for ASG for two years.

“I also worked part time as a proofreader in the mid-80s when I edited one of the Sea Week books. At that time our director, Don Rosenberg, was in Fairbanks. The administrative part of Sea Grant was less integrated with the Marine Advisory Program, which was led by John Doyle in Anchorage. Alaska Sea Grant was in UA Statewide. The School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences was yet to be formed and house the program,” Keller recalled.

During Keller’s tenure, the Fairbanks offices of ASG have been located in seven different buildings on and off campus. The organization is currently housed at the Elvey Building on West Ridge.

Keller has edited and written the majority of the content for more than 300 issues of Fishlines, ASG’s monthly newsletter launched in 1981. She has deftly handled production of more than 170 educational Sea Grams and books.

Her favorite book to work on was Kate Wynne’s popular Guide to Marine Mammals of Alaska, ASG’s top seller.

“Kate invented the user-friendly layout that we would use for many similar guides that followed. We were pretty excited to work on her book with all those furry mammal pictures, and it has been our best seller ever since. Other authors soon appeared with manuscripts for guidebooks—on flatfish, sharks, squids, seaweed and bird nests and eggs. It was a lot of fun,” Keller said.

Originally from Michigan, Keller came to Alaska by way of Wisconsin, where she earned a master’s degree in botany. She moved to Fairbanks because her husband, retired UAF chemistry professor John Keller, got a job at the university. The two met as students at Ohio State University.

Although she loved botany, there were few paying jobs in that field in Fairbanks at the time. Editing skills acquired during a prior job at the New York Botanical Garden proved useful to Keller when she pursued employment at Alaska Sea Grant.

“I never dreamed I would have a career working in fisheries and marine science, but I’m glad I could use my science background in this way,” she said.

Sue Keller at Alaska Sea Grant, 1996.

Keller has coordinated the Lowell Wakefield Fisheries symposia since 2010 and edited the proceedings. The organizers bring together a community of U.S. and international scientists eager to share research and contribute to fisheries management.

“It has been inspiring to organize this conference which brings scientists from all over the world together who are dedicated to applying their own research to world fisheries sustainability,” Keller said.

In her retirement, Keller has plans for more world travel adventures, bird-watching and family gatherings.

“Japan and Australia are next on my list,” she said.

The editor and her husband hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain, earlier this year.

Keller’s supervisor said it will be tough to replace her given Keller’s deep institutional knowledge of ASG, its partners and programs, and her superior writing, editing and publications skills.

“Sue is a hardworking, loyal and very talented communicator who I will deeply miss having on our team. But after 35 years, I understand that she deserves some time off,” said communications manager Paula Dobbyn. “If she ever changes her mind though and wants to return or work as a contractor, I would welcome her back in a heartbeat.”