A rainbow of poster boards and periodic table t-shirts colored Pocatello sidewalks Saturday as nearly 500 people participated in the March for Science.
The march, which sought to raise awareness of scientists’ contributions to Pocatello and support publically funded and communicated science nationwide, was one of 610 satellite marches across the country.
“We need to emphasize the work that scientists do in Pocatello,” said Rosemary Smith, an ISU biology professor and one of the march’s organizers. “A lot of industries in Pocatello, and employers employ scientists … If you tried to do your daily work without a scientist, really, nothing would happen in Pocatello.”
The event involved not only the march itself, but a series of speakers and a Science Expo held after the march.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, marchers congregated at Frazier Hall, where they made last-minute signs, received buttons with the march’s motto, “Science Works,” and complimented each other’s homemade signs. Common slogans included “Make America Think Again” and “Science, Not Silence.”
The marchers heard from three ISU faculty members: Erin Rasmussen of the psychology department, Russell Wahl of the philosophy department and Bill Woodhouse of the Family Medicine Residency.
Rasmussen, a prominent researcher, spoke of science’s far-reaching impact on all aspects of Americans’ lives, from health to communication to food.
“I am a scientist, but I’m also a mom and a wife,” she said. “I’m also a sister and a daughter and a friend, and every one of these roles validates my need to be concerned about science.”
Next, Wahl addressed what he perceived as growing skepticism of the scientific community and attacks on the legitimacy of scientific findings. Connecting his area of expertise, philosophy, with science, he encouraged an attitude of skeptical confidence in science and scientists’ work.
In his speech, Woodhouse, a doctor of family medicine, framed the March For Science as support for federally-funded scientific research.
Citing the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality as particular examples, he asserted a need for robust funding of unbiased and rigorous research.
Like Rasmussen, he underscored the universality of science in American lives, for example listing various ailments and related treatments developed by scientists.
“Our patients live longer, healthier, more productive lives,” Woodhouse said. “Science matters to all of us.”
After the addresses, the crowd took to the streets. Walking up 4th Street to Center, then down 5th Street, the group made its way to the Student Union Building where the Science Expo was held.
Groups from ON Semiconductor to the Bureau of Land Management to Zoo Idaho to the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and various science departments at ISU, set up informational booths for visitors. Marchers could stop by the booths to pick up pamphlets or peek in the enclosures of skunks and snakes.
A science march organizer, ISU chemistry student Brett Brownfield, said he and other organizers hope to make the Expo an annual event. It and the march provided a chance for scientists to speak up, he said.
“It’s an opportunity for scientists to get involved outside of their field,” Brownfield said. “We want scientists to get more involved in policymaking, reaching out and saying ‘Here’s the science behind this,’ and being more outspoken about it.”
The event also allowed those who don’t conduct, but still respect science research to voice their own opinions on the matter. One marcher, Bailey Neuhaus, attended the Women’s March in January in Washington, D.C. Though the experience was impactful, she noted a need for the movement to extend to places like Pocatello.
“Satellite marches are just as important, if not more important, than the main march,” she said. “It’s comforting to know that there are people who care about these things, too.”