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Eric Brown Retires From RACE

photo of Eric Brown
Photo by Rich MacIntosh.

Eric was born 24 March 1944, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his father worked on enriching plutonium for the Manhattan Project. When his parents divorced four years later, his mother moved them west to California, first joining her parents in the Mohave Desert and eventually settling them in San Francisco when Eric began school. His mother remarried and they moved to Berkeley about the time Eric entered junior high school. He graduated from Berkeley High School in 1962. He spent summers with his father who went on to teach at the University of Chicago and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. During the 1958 International Geophysical Year, his father traveled to Moscow to attend an International Astronomical Union meeting and took Eric with him.

In the years following high school, Eric alternately attended San Francisco State University and other colleges and worked in construction jobs. He was drafted into the Navy SeaBees in 1966 and assigned to Port Hueneme and, ultimately, deployed to Vietnam for two tours of duty. Capitalizing on the skills he learned in the SeaBees, he was able to join the carpentry union in San Francisco upon leaving the service in 1968 and worked as an apprentice carpenter for a few years. He met his wife Sybil in 1969 at a New Year’s Eve party in Berkeley. For the next 5 years they worked and went to school in Santa Cruz (Cabrillo College) and the Bay Area (UC Davis). Together they moved to Seattle in the summer of 1974, where Eric worked for the Forest Service fighting fires. The following September he enrolled at the UW College of Fisheries to finish his B.S., graduating the following June with a degree in fisheries.

In the spring of 1975 Eric joined what was then the Marine Fish and Shellfish Division of the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Center. His first field work was scheduled to begin in May, so he had to make arrangements to finish his finals early. Ultimately, the cruise was postponed and, as he said, he could have kept on schedule and received much better grades that last quarter! His first field season prepared him well for what lay ahead, beginning with 30 days in the Gulf of Alaska followed by 63 days in the Bering Sea with the likes of Sue Salveson, Don Gunderson, Terry Sample, Mark Wilkins, and Steve Hughes.

One of the most memorable parts of his career was working with scientists of the Japan Fisheries Agency to collaborate on Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands bottom trawl surveys. He was impressed with the professionalism and cooperation of the Japanese scientists as they helped plan, conduct, and analyze results from cooperative surveys done between 1980 and 1987.

Another milestone in his career occurred in 1980 when he was Chief Scientist aboard the Miller Freeman during a winter bottom trawl survey near Kodiak Island. It was during that cruise that he and his fellow scientists discovered immense schools of walleye pollock in Shelikof Strait. The schools, which stretched for hundreds of square miles and from the bottom nearly to the surface, had never been detected before probably because no surveys had been conducted within state waters during that time of year.

An avid hiker and skier, Eric loves to head off into the mountains every chance he gets. Frequently during surveys in the Aleutian Islands, as soon as the skipper dropped anchor in some isolated bay, Eric could be found helping get the skiff into the water, eager to be off and exploring the highest point of land in sight.

Eric was promoted to a supervisory position in charge of conducting the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands surveys in 1990 and led that group through 2001. He was particularly proud of his close working relationship with many of the stock assessment scientists in the REFM Division, helping them interpret the results of these surveys.

In 2004 Eric, along with other members of the RACE Safety Committee, was awarded a Department of Commerce Group Bronze Medal Award for contributions in developing an At-Sea Safety Plan and Manual that provide essential guidance for harsh fieldwork environments in Alaska waters.

Chief among Eric’s talents were his sense of humor, sense of camaraderie, and his knack of getting along with people. We’ll all miss having him around and wish him many, many years of active and healthy relaxation. But we won’t have to be as cautious about him sneaking up behind and surprising us quite as often!

By Mark Wilkins

Length of Service Awards at ABL

  photo of Bill Heard and Jim Coe

Bill Heard (left in photo), program manager for the Auke Bay Laboratory’s (ABL) Marine Salmon Interactions Program, received a 45-year length of service award from AFSC Deputy Director Jim Coe (right in photo) at a special meeting for ABL staff at the University of Alaska Southeast campus.

Other longevity award recipients from ABL were: Cheri Hendren (35 years); Jeff Fujioka and Paula Johnson (30 years); Mark Carls, Steve Ignell, and Scott Johnson (25 years); Ron Heintz, Christine Kondzela, Bonita Nelson, Robert Stone, and Brad Weinlander (20 years); Sharon Hawkins, Larry Holland, and Marie Larsen (15 years); and Ed Farley (10 years)

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