Nearly 500 participate in March for Science in Pocatello

April 23, 2017 GMT

POCATELLO — In front of about 500 people congregated outside Frazier Hall on Idaho State University’s campus, Dr. Erin Rasmussen, professor of psychology at ISU, held a microphone in her hands and triumphantly said, “I am a scientist.”

Her statement elicited cheers as the March for Science in Pocatello began.

The March for Science — held Saturday in conjunction with Earth Day — was worldwide, with the main march taking place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Pocatello was one of 500 cities around the globe that marched to advocate for continued funding of science and fight against incredulity of science. The march also supported the role of science in everyday lives and called for policymakers to make science-based decisions.

Rasmussen was the first of three guest speakers to talk before the march in Pocatello began. Dr. Russell Wahl, professor of philosophy at ISU, talked about how the march wasn’t fueled by politics and how scientists’ efforts are driven by data, not agendas.

“(It’s motivated) by scientists ... who became alarmed at what was happening with respect to funding of science,” Wahl said. “Many people were concerned because of what they saw as a new skepticism toward science — that science was just another interest group fighting for its own partisan ends.”

The third speaker, Dr. William Woodhouse, a local family physician, spoke of proposed budget cuts to a variety of agencies “critical to the practice of medicine and the public health.”

After the guest speakers, participants began the march, starting at the corner of East Carter Street and North Fifth Avenue. Marchers walked on the sidewalk to North Fourth Street and headed northwest all the way to East Center Street, before returning back to the campus via North Fifth Avenue. The march ended at the Pond Student Union Building, where a science exposition was set up.

“I think it’s a great symbol of showing our opinions on a certain subject,” said David Huber, Ph.D. candidate in ISU’s biology department and one of the organizers of the Pocatello march. “In this case, we think science is vital for the democracy and well-being of the world.”

Huber was interested in participating in a March for Science in Pocatello, but soon realized no one had orchestrated one yet. That’s when he got together with ISU professor Dr. Rosemary Smith and Brett Brownfield, an undergraduate in ISU’s chemistry department, to organize a march in Pocatello. That was about a month ago, and the trio worked pretty quickly to get everything set up.

Huber hopes the March for Science is just the first step in getting the science community more vocal about its beliefs — that scientists feel empowered to engage lawmakers and citizens with their opinions based on scientific fact.

“I think the real power of this march is going to be that scientists came together,” Huber said. “We decided — not uniformly, but largely as a group — that we were OK with being more political.”