In Remembrance of Brian Chilcott

Originally published: 
January, 2017

We are deeply saddened to share that MLA alumnus Brian Chilcott, MLA ’07, died in a car accident in Madera County, California, on December 14, 2016.

Brian is remembered with great affection by his classmates and SNRE faculty. Professor Joan Nassauer recalls his deep curiosity about the natural world, as well as his devotion to outdoor living and adventures. Tao Zhang, ’08, remembers him as, “one of the most genuine advocates for nature that I know.” Interim Dean Dan Brown recalls, “Brian’s dedication to learning, born of his passion for the environment, combined with his abilities in critical thinking made him a powerful change agent.”

Fellow alumnus and friend Nick Deyo, ’11, has established a GoFundMe campaign to benefit Brian’s wife, Jessica Vansteenburg. Both she and their dog Axel are recovering from injuries sustained in the accident.

Brian grew up on a farm in western Nebraska, where he gained a strong sense of self-reliance and connection to the natural world. Before coming to graduate school at SNRE, he served as a biological technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After graduating from SNRE, Brian worked as a landscape architect with Sasaki in Boston. Most recently, he worked as a planner for the National Park Service. He was developing a wilderness preservation plan for Yosemite National Park at the time of his death.

Schooled as both a biologist and a landscape architect, Brian worked diligently to build relationships between park divisions and branches, ultimately working towards the goal of creating a Wilderness Stewardship Plan that spoke equally for all life – plant, animal, and human. Brian was a gifted technical writer and researcher and we were extremely lucky to have him as part of our team.

He spoke many times of his love for Yosemite and the greater Sierra and this passion manifested itself in his work ethic and personal outdoor pursuits. Among many other things, his persnickety sense of humor, his shared insights into mushroom hunting and wildlife watching, and his honest, straight-shooting perspectives on the important things in life will truly be missed.

Woody Smeck, Superintendent of Yosemite National Park

Those wishing to extend sympathy may reach his wife, Jessica Vansteenburg, at 5070 Veranda Terrace, Davis, California 95618.