Brighton named 2017 Chesapeake Champion
Award winner scours Maryland to catalogue every living thing
CAMBRIDGE — It started during a trip to Canada in 2005 to observe Great Gray Owls, when Bill Hubick of Pasadena and Jim Brighton of Easton sat down over a few beers and discovered they both loved nature and its variety of species.
In June 2012, while busily taking photos of flowering plants in the Severn Run Environmental Area, an idea was hatched. Brighton and Hubick decided to establish the Maryland Biodiversity Project, a bold endeavor that would list all the plant and animal species of Maryland.
“We felt it very important that people understand the amazing diversity that surrounds them. We wanted the Maryland Biodiversity Project to light a fire under people, to make everyone excited about nature and the environment,” Brighton said.
A website (www.marylandbiodiversity.com) was created comprising a catalogue of
17,270 species in checklists; 9,037 species with photographs; 73,160 total photos; and 325,113 total records. The participants in the website are building a nature study community and helping Brighton and Hubick to promote education and conservation.
Mike Roman, Horn Point Laboratory’s director, said, “Jim’s vision for the MBP ideally fits the criteria of the Chesapeake Champion award — a community person whose volunteer activities demonstrate a commitment to environmental preservation and stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay’s natural resources.”
The annual Chesapeake Champion award celebration will take place from 5 to 7 pm. Friday, June 23, at the former Maryland National Guard Armory in downtown Easton, now owned by Waterfowl Chesapeake.
Horn Point will share the funds generated by tickets with the Maryland BioDiversity Project. All other proceeds from the celebration will benefit HPL’s Bay and Rivers Graduate Student Endowment Fund, which supports students earning a master’s degree or Ph.D. degree in preparation for careers in environmental policy, business, academia or other areas.
As the fifth annual Chesapeake Champion, Brighton follows in the footsteps of Amy Haines, Chip Akridge, Albert Pritchett, and Jordan and Alice Lloyd, winners, respectively, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
A conversation with Brighton reveals a person committed not only to the expanded reach of MBP but also an enhanced appreciation by the public for the wonders of nature.
In identifying plants, butterflies and birds, Brighton is intent on motivating “ever yone to have a sense of wonderment and stewardship of the land.”
“If we can help create that feeling, we are successful,” he said. “It’s important that my neighbors appreciate what they have around them.”
While Brighton fully embraces interest and inquiries by scientists and academic scholars, he remains focused on building a strong nature community.
“It’s cool when you can identify a species, discover what’s living around you and take ownership,” Brighton said. “It gives you a sense of responsibility — you become responsible for your surroundings, your environment.”
In his low-key manner, Brighton understands the essential importance of this most unusual inventory of Maryland species that he and Hubick have constructed.
He quietly and persuasively draws your attention to nature, experienced by him and a slew of volunteers willing and able to spend their free time, armed with cameras and notepads, exploring Maryland nature.
Brighton views Maryland as an ideal venue to find and catalogue varied and fascinating species.
“The north meets the south in Maryland. The Eastern Shore is a barrier for many southern species. This makes Mar yland a special place environmentally because of diverse habitats,” he said.
A Dorchester County native, Brighton is the grandson of Jim Richardson, a renowned Cambridge boat builder. During the week, Brighton plies his expertise as a painter and finisher at Campbell’s Boatyards in Oxford, as he has done for 19 years.
“Jim puts the gleam on every boat that comes from Campbell’s,” said Susan Campbell, who with her husband, Tom, owns the business in Oxford. “Jim’s love of nature and the Maryland Biodiversity Project has been passed on to many of our employees. He has gotten several of his co-workers involved in his love of bird watching.
“Last year, he helped organize a fishing tournament, which was comprised of nine people; seven of these people were Campbell’s employees. It wasn’t about catching the biggest fish, but was about catching the most different species of fish. Each fish caught by the par ticipants was photographed and documented for MBP,” Susan Campbell said.
During a nine-month period, the fishing tournament caught and classified roughly 75 species, ranging in size from 1.5 inches for an eastern mosquitofish to 42 inches for a rockfish, and from Western Maryland to the Atlantic coast, according to Susan Campbell.
The MBP website has become a valuable resource “through compromise, hard work and lots of computer time,” Brighton said. He said he would like to see a similar biodiversity project in every state and ever y classroom.
“I want ever ybody to know about this,” he said.
He said he spends considerable time on the MBP Facebook page. The MBP Facebook page is one of its major modes of outreach, with more than 7,100 “likes.” More than 2,000 people look daily at the posts, a number that can reach 40,000 at times, Brighton said.
Horn Point, a research laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, is known for its leadership in using the tools of science to restore the Chesapeake Bay. Today, the lab’s research also is advancing coastal solutions for local and global climate change. Faculty and students invite community inquiries about perplexing environmental questions. The website can be found at www.umces.edu/hpl and includes a “Guide to Experts” to help people know where to direct questions.
As has been the case during the past four years, community support of the 2017 Chesapeake Champion has been strong. This year’s sponsors and donors to date are: The Akridge Family Foundation; Buffy Linehan and Ambassador Ed Gabriel; Patrice and Herb Miller; The Star Democrat; Chaney Enterprises; Amy Haines and Richard Marks; Campbell’s Boatyards; Bay Instruments LLC.; Jay and Anne Marie Borneman; Tom and Sheila Buckmaster; David Dunn and Ambassador Amy Bondurant; Al and Dagmar Gipe; Jeff and Belinda Miley; Albert and Jennifer Pritchett; Jef f and Diane Staley; Richard and Beverly Tilghman; Provident State Bank; Howard and Liz Freedlander; Kenneth and Julia Rose; Kelly Showell; Mike and Jennie Roman; the Izaak Walton League Mid-Shore Chapter; and Sandra Cannon-Brown.
For more information about attending the event and sponsorships, contact Liz Freedlander at 410-829-9913 or lfreed lander@ umces.edu.
From left are Jim Brighton and Bill Hubick, who together established the Maryland Biodiversity Project to catalogue all the plant and animal species of Maryland.
A Baltimore oriole is pictured, and is a bird species catalogued with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, an endeavor that would list all the plant and animal species of Maryland.
A Ruddy Turnstone is pictured, and is a bird species catalogued with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, an endeavor that would list all the plant and animal species of Maryland.
A luna moth is pictured, and is a moth species catalogued with the Maryland Biodiversity Project.
A Delmarva Fox Squirrel is pictured, and is a squirrel species catalogued with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, an endeavor that would list all the plant and animal species of Maryland.
A snowy owl is pictured at Assateague Island. The owl is a species catalogued with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, the brainchild of Jim Brighton and Bill Hubick.
A crested yellow rrchid is pictured, and is a plant species catalogued with the Maryland Biodiversity Project.