Date of this Version
“In Memory of John J. Dinan, 1954–2005” from Nebraska Bird Review (September 2005) 73(3).
It was immediately obvious to anyone who knew John that his work with the birds and other wildlife of Nebraska was more than just a job—it was his life, and he lived it with a passion. Although not always a formal member of the Nebraska Ornithologists' Union, John, as much as anyone, was "dedicated to the study, appreciation, and protection of birds" in Nebraska.
Those privileged enough to spend time afield with John quickly became aware of the presence of not just a professional biologist, but one still fired with that first innocent curiosity at discovering Nebraska's natural environment. That curiosity led him to discover the first Nebraska specimen record of a Great-tailed Grackle. He continually challenged his own observations with the practiced skepticism of the professional observer. Even better, he also possessed the rare ability to teach that attitude to others, by letting them "discover" that even their most obvious observations needed to be questioned, rather than simply telling them that what they saw might be open to other interpretation.
Early in John's career with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), one of the projects that fit in with his preference for field work was a multiyear nesting study of Panhandle raptors—primarily Ferruginous Hawks, Prairie Falcons, and Golden Eagles. Perhaps one of his longest-running projects involved work with threatened and endangered bird species, especially Piping Plovers and Least Terns. One recent, time-devouring project of particular interest to the NOU involved John in the publication of The Nebraska Breeding Bird Atlas. He not only found a major part of the funding for publication, but more importantly, he devoted his time to guide the writing, rewriting, editing, and other details required to shepherd the manuscript through the process, finally seeing it through to completion. John was a key part of the team bringing the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project, a statewide effort to conserve and protect the habitats and wildlife of Nebraska, to fruition.
Lost unexpectedly in the prime of his life and career, John will be sorely missed by a host of colleagues and friends.