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All About Us–Bryan Hamlin

All About Us–Bryan Hamlin

All About Us is exactly the same as the Volunteer Spotlight, but with a focus on the  Board of Directors and staff.  Many of you know us very well, but some of you only know us by name or title.  We love to get out in the community–and in the Middlesex Fells!–to meet you all in person.  But in the meantime, we realized we didn’t have any sort of biographies listed on our website and we’re hoping these help you put faces and stories to the names.  Up first, retired Chairman (but still very active board member) Bryan Hamlin:

Name:  Bryan Hamlin

Town: Medford

Profession: Retired

Involved Since:  2003

Bryan wants to tell you:

“I am 75, retired, and living in Medford very close to the western edge of the Middlesex Fells. When my wife Anne and I moved to Medford in early 2003 we soon discovered the nearby Fells. I was very snooty on my first walk into the woods thinking that this close to downtown Boston the woods would be degraded with not much in the way of interesting native plants. Was I in for a surprise! In a short while I began to see what I call ‘indicator plants’ indicating that here was a healthy woodland. For example – Striped Wintergreen. So I began to make a list of the plants I found on walks in the Fells.

I grew up in rural England and from an early age and, thanks to my parents, came to appreciate nature. First I made a list of the plants I found on my school’s grounds. Then during my gap year between high school and university I drove around my beautiful rural county of Somerset on an old motorbike with a collecting box on the back compiling a list of the county flora.

At college I took a minor in botany but my main subject was microbiology – mainly medical bacteria – as I thought there would be more job prospects there. But, rather concerned about the world, on finishing univeWood Anemonersity (with a PhD) I worked for an international group trying to bring reconciliation in trouble spots around the world. This included the Middle East, Northern Ireland and Russia. As you can see, my colleagues and I didn’t do a very good job.  But wherever I went I made note of the plants I saw. I had grown up with the lovely spring flower – Wood Anemone, so I was intrigued to find it in a forest in Siberia; and it also grows aplenty in the Fells.

So in 2003 I started to make a list of the plants in the Fells. I’m not that good so I built a team – Betty Brooks, a lady I met at a Friends of the Fells meeting in Melrose; Don Lubin, a local expert on ferns; and Walter Kittredge, a professional botanist who works at the Harvard Herbarium. We published our findings in 2012 in a 70-page article in the journal Rhodora the flagship of the New England Botanical Club. Since then I haven’t been able to stop looking for new things, and, greatly aided by Walter, we have currently found 902 species of what are termed vascular plants – that is ferns (36), conifers (24), and the rest are flowering plants – all the way from grasses, herbaceous wildflowers, bushes, and trees like maples, oaks and hickorys.

Such a high number is a measure both of the health of the Fells, and also its amazing ecological variety from the big reservoirs to vernal pools, swamps, marshes, streams, different types of woodlands and lots of rocky outcrops – thus its name. We are SO fortunate to have this amazing wild forest reservation right within the metropolitan area of Boston. I just LOVE the Fells and will continue to walk these woods looking for the beautiful and the unexpected.”

Thank you, Bryan! There are many wonderful lessons in his story: how exposing children to nature sticks with them their entire life and then they will go on to influence many others (His entire family loves wildflowers–his granddaughter Althea is named after one, and she’s just as into nature as her grandfather!), about studying urban wilderness, and how many of the greatest Friends of the Fells projects are self-initiated but it is the perfect place to find supportive networks and resources.  What else did you get out of it?  What questions do you have for Bryan?

Are you interested in a leadership role or perhaps future employment with The Friends of the Fells?  Contact us at Women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans are especially encouraged.


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