For Dr. Fran Keller, science was always much more than an academic pursuit. It was a way of living in the world.
Now the museum scientist at the UC Davis R.M. Bohart Museum of Entomology, Keller has led insect collecting trips for budding entomologists, organized all manner of public events and generally championed the work of her and her colleagues.
On Saturday, Keller will be joining an estimated 15,000 people in Sacramento in the local “March for Science” to the state Capitol, one of more than 500 marches organized by scientists and others around the world. Keller and other marchers say they’re protesting official disregard for scientific research on issues such as climate change and the proposed federal defunding of a swath of research programs.
“Science is not just somebody sitting in a lab with a white lab coat,” Keller said earlier in the week. “Science is all about asking questions, and I think the public is unaware of the diversity of science that happens across the world.”
On top of marchers’ minds are planned federal cuts to agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Institutes of Health, which would hold back a spectrum of research and education. Keller said her museum will have to stop its public education programs and even close its doors to most visitors if the cuts go through. UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology ranks seventh in the world, according to the most recent data from the Center for World University Rankings.
Bruce Hammock, a UC Davis entomology professor who plans to march with his lab partners, said supporting science also means strengthening national defense, public health and other priorities.
“If (Donald) Trump is interested in an advanced military, he needs to support science,” Hammock said.
Federal budget cuts would hit many of of the university’s research programs, which have received financial support from several federal agencies expected to be cut, according to Cameron Carter, interim vice chancellor for the UC Davis Office of Research.
“UC Davis has a very large research portfolio, and the largest component of its funding comes from the federal government,” Carter said. “It would be devastating to the university’s research and would have a negative impact on the local and national economy.”
Some scientists around the country have warned against mixing politics with science. The Sacramento march’s co-sponsors include local chapters of the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO.
The march will start at noon Saturday from Southside Park, at Sixth and T streets, and make its way to the Capitol. A rally kicks off at 1 p.m. with planned speakers including Patricia Velez, president of the California Association of Professional Scientists; Mark Brown, professor in the Department of Government at California State University, Sacramento; and Anthony Barnosky, executive director of Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.
“This march is about making a statement of the need for continued support for science,” said David Rist, the professional scientist association’s Bay Area director. “Gov. Jerry Brown has been very supportive of science and education in general, and it is important that we stand with him and support dollars for future science.”
With the event being held on Earth Day, environmental issues promise to take center stage in Sacramento and at the national march in Washington, D.C., in light of Trump’s rejection of climate change as established scientific fact. Many of the proposed federal cuts target research into the impacts of climate change on weather systems, oceans and other parts of the environment.
“The march is important to point out the importance of science in understanding the world and government policies,” said Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director of the advocacy group Center for Biological Diversity, which is co-sponsoring the local march. “Scientists need to stand up against increasing disregard of the field.”
March for Science Sacramento
What: About 15,000 people are expected to join a local version of the worldwide “March for Science” protesting U.S. government policies on climate change, science research and other topics.
When and where: The march starts at noon Saturday at Southside Park at Sixth and T streets. It’ll travel west on T Street, turn north on Fifth Street and east at the Capitol Mall. A 1 p.m. rally is planned at the state Capitol.
Rules: Signs will be permitted, but their handles must be no thicker than a quarter of an inch, no wider than three-quarters of an inch, no longer than 18 inches and be made of wood. Marchers are being asked not to bring dogs other than service dogs.