The University of Maine has created its first weekly podcast, “The Maine Question.” It is an educational program that will provide students and faculty with the opportunity to discuss and promote their research in the comfort of a conversational setting.

The host of “The Maine Question,” Ron Lisnet, is a graduate of the university’s forestry program and is a visual media manager, and currently provides radio commentary for the men’s basketball team. Lisnet explained to the Maine Campus that he expects his research-focused discussions to naturally benefit the many students who are themselves conducting research, and acknowledged that the growing popularity of podcasts served as an influence on his decision to choose such a format.

“The focus of this podcast series is to explore the research and creative activity happening here at UMaine in all areas: science, technology, the arts and humanities, among many other topics,” Lisnet explained. “There are so many good stories to tell and interesting people to get to know. Much of that scholarly activity happens here in Maine and has a positive effect on people’s lives in the state, but UMaine’s research is global in scope and we look forward to exploring the work being done around the world, in the oceans, in space or wherever UMaine research is taking place.”

Lisnet has, in addition to his hosting of the podcast, largely coordinated the production and distribution of each episode. The recording itself requires nothing more than a basic recording device and can be done directly in a professor’s office, or a quiet room of any kind, making it easier for Lisnet to conduct the interviews needed for the podcast.

Each podcast episode varies in length, and can run from a short 15 minutes to nearly an hour, depending on the time necessary for a topic’s detailed discussion.

“The experience thus far has been largely as I anticipated,” Lisnet said when asked to describe the recording process. “UMaine faculty members we have reached out to have been more than accommodating and happy to share their story and their work. Doing the interviews and production overall has been fairly easy going. Each episode does need some post-production to make the audio quality optimal. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get  the podcast up and available on the various platforms but I believe we have a good base now.”

For his podcast’s inaugural episode, Lisnet spoke with Michael Kinnison, a professor of evolutionary application and the associate director of the School of Biology and Ecology, who discussed his involvement with Maine’s Environmental DNA (eDNA), a new statewide initiative in environmental monitoring and sustainability.

“Working with Ron on the podcast was a real pleasure,” Kinnison said. “Most interviews I do are very short and don’t offer much opportunity beyond a quick sound bite. Ron has designed this podcast to give researchers and other innovators a chance to really tell the story behind their work and why it matters. I think listeners have much more opportunity with these podcasts to not only delve into the nuances of research and innovation but also get more insight into the people behind the work. This podcast is a chance to learn what excites and motivates these people, what concerns them, and even get to know them a bit as neighbors, parents, teachers and of course, Mainers, who want to make a difference.”

The remaining podcast episodes this semester will be released each Thursday and will address a diverse series of subjects including sociology, economics, theatre and climate science.

“In terms of future development of the series we plan to stay with this model for the time being,” Lisnet said. “Our future episodes will cover Maine’s reuse economy, being child-free by choice, and an interview with UMaine alum and multiple Tony award winner Don Holder, who is a lighting designer on Broadway. Paul Mayewski from the Climate Change Institute will also share his story about living and working in the earth’s polar regions on Mt. Everest and [at] other remote locations.”

The podcast’s first two episodes, which cover eDNA and the invasive green crab species now affecting Maine’s fishing industry, can be accessed online through either iTunes and other podcast hosting sites, or at its website at umaine.edu/podcasts. Those with further interest are encouraged to contact the podcast’s creators by email at maine.question@maine.edu.