Mourning the loss of UAF graduate Sean Brennan

Alaska Sea Grant’s faculty and staff are mourning the loss of Sean R. Brennan, a PhD graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

A father of three, Brennan was killed in a ski accident in Alta, Utah, on January 2, 2020. The Seattle resident was 37.

At UAF, Brennan focused his PhD research on tracing the origin of Chinook salmon in the Nushagak River in southwest Alaska. One of the most prolific salmon-producing rivers on the planet, the Nushagak drains into Bristol Bay, home of a multi-million-dollar commercial fishing industry. He used strontium isotopes taken from the ears of salmon to identify the fish’s birthplace,  a mapping technique that can be applied to other rivers across the state. Salmon are highly migratory and the tool Brennan developed aids in conservation and management of the anadromous fish. Alaska Sea Grant supported Brennan’s research.

Brennan went on to do a postdoc at the University of Washington, where he published, along with his mentor Daniel Schindler, many scientific papers about salmon production within the context of shifting watershed and habitat dynamics.

“We are devastated by Sean’s untimely passing. He was doing important research that had broad-ranging, positive implications for the residents, industries and cultures that rely on salmon. Besides being a dedicated scientist, Sean was the father to three children ages five and under. This loss is unimaginable. We send our most heartfelt condolences to his wife, Britt, and the rest of his family in this time of grief,” said Ginny Eckert, Alaska Sea Grant acting director.

Read the obituary. Donate to a scholarship fund to support Brennan’s children.