Maine Nature News, an online periodical, covers natural history events, occurrences and observations in Maine. It emphasizes what is happening in the natural world, from the point of view of Nature.
History of the Maine Nature News
by Frank Wihbey
How It First Came About
It all started when a Maine Audubon member survey went out sometime around 1992 and got me thinking about one of the questions: “What improvements could be made…?” I replied “There is a time and subject gap in communications for natural history observations in the state. The Bird Alert telephone message [no web then] is weekly , but only covers birds. The Society’s Habitat magazine appears monthly, but is not really missioned to cover current observations.”
This led to a solution idea. I envisioned a tabloid size weekly on newsprint stock, similar to the shoppers’ weeklies distributed in some towns. I imagined whom the circle of “reporters” might consist of, perhaps science teachers, game wardens, birders who had non-bird observations to report, et al. I wrote a prospectus and flew it by several people knowledgeable about communicating science to the public and working with natural history reports of “citizen scientists”. My conclusion was that attempting such a project as a printed publication would not have been within the capacity of my time and energy.
The World Wide Web Comes on Stage
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and gave it its name. But it did not come onto my radar screen until fall 1995 when a wunderkind colleague took the time (thank you, Jenn!) to explain the Web concept and use of Mosaic, the first user friendly browser software. I knew immediately that the Web was the ticket to get this idea off the ground!
Publishing on the Web obviates the need for printing and mailing costs, and has the further advantage of instant “circulation”. If I required correspondents to exclusively use e-mail for sending reports, then their observations and other information would be received promptly and would not have to be retyped. My job would be: organizing the information, light editing, uploading the finished product to the Web and managing the website.
In March, 1996 Maine Nature News was born and has appeared weekly on Tuesdays ever since. The corps of correspondents built slowly over time by word of mouth and “word-of-Web”. All are volunteers who share an interest in Maine Natural history.
Editors Note: Frank Wihbey volunteered his time as the Publishing Editor until August 1, 2006 when Robin Follette took over the responsibilities until November 2012. Robin is an avid outdoor woman and contributes through her column Robin’s Journal. Maine Nature News is now Published and Edited by Maureen Raynes. Maureen’s adventures and explores can be found in her column Maine Nature Muse. Time changes many things and it is my hope that Maine Nature News will continue to stay abreast of the news and events that focus to inform through observation, the natural history of the State of Maine. ~Maureen