March for Science: Alaska communities to host events, urge all to ‘stand up for science’

University of Alaska Fairbanks ecology professor says, "We’re concerned about the threats that face science and scientists." (Photo by Tim Ellis/KUAC)
University of Alaska Fairbanks ecology professor says, “We’re concerned about the threats that face science and scientists.”
(Photo by Tim Ellis/KUAC)

Ten Alaskan communities will join hundreds of others worldwide Saturday to show support for science and the role it plays in improving the lives of people.

Two Alaskans who’ll be participating in their communities’ March for Science observances say they’ll also be protesting steep budget cuts proposed for federal agencies and programs and politically-motivated attacks on science and scientists.

Christa Mulder, a professor of ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said she’ll be marching here mainly to express her alarm with a political environment that’s grown increasingly hostile to science.

Juneau science rally

A March for Science rally will be 9-10 a.m. Saturday, April 22, on the steps of the Capitol Building, Juneau.

Fourth Street from Main to Seward streets will be closed to vehicle traffic.

After the rally, the group will march to Juneau Douglas High School. Participants will not impact traffic.

For information, contact Theresa Soley at (414) 688-6715.

“We’re marching to celebrate science, but we’re also marching to demonstrate to people that we’re concerned about the threats that face science and scientists,” she said.

Mulder worries that political leaders and others have grown skeptical about science – as shown in resistance to such programs for vaccinating children and, of course, monitoring climate change.

Her concerns are intensified by the near-daily barrage of criticism of science by President Donald Trump and other conservative leaders and their proposals to slash funding and eliminate programs. And their growing tendency to censor and intimidate researchers and suppress their data.

“It’s those kinds of things,” she said. “When you undermine any credibility in what science tells you, you’re really causing, I think, enormous damage to society.”

Bryan Box will be marching for science in Anchorage because the hostile political environment that followed the Nov. 8 election of Trump cost him his job – and a shot at a research position with a federal agency in Alaska.

“Nov. 10,” he said, “my bosses tell me ‘Hey look, because of the election, we’re not going to give you that job. And so we’re also going to have to let you go from the job that you already have, on Jan. 20.’”

Box is an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and went on to earn an undergraduate degree in biological sciences from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

He asked that the agency that he’d hoped to work for not be mentioned in this report, because he’d still like to work for it. But for now he and his fellow researchers are just trying to cope with such problems as the loss of scientific data that’s been“scrubbed” from federal websites.

“More and more of these researchers were freaking out because huge sections of the (federal) government (online content) were starting to go black, as far as like parts of the EPA website, that sort of thing.”

Box is also discouraged by censorship imposed on federal employees by an administration gag order requiring them to gain high-level clearance for release of many kinds of science-related information to the public.

“Somebody who has absolutely no idea about our field whatsoever is going to be reading our peer-reviewed journal articles for political correctness, or whatever you want to call it.”

Fairbanks’ observance of March for Science will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at Ryan Middle School, 1450 Cowles St.

The event will begin with a rally at Ryan followed by a march along Airport Way around the Cowles Street intersection.

Box and Mulder both say they’re not particularly politically minded people, and that people of any political affiliation are welcome to participate in the marches – as long as they support science and research free from political influence.

“Science is not by itself political,” Mulder said. “It is not a partisan march. We really don’t care who you voted for. Anybody who’s willing to come out and stand up for science … is very, very welcome.”

Box reiterated that emphasis on inclusion. He’s invited many scientists and science-minded people to show up and share their work.

“If you use peer review, if you use empirical evidence, you use the scientific method to do something, I want you to show up with your data ready to talk to people.”

Online information about the marches is available on Facebook andmarchforscience.com.

KUAC - Fairbanks

KUAC is our partner station in Fairbanks. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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