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Entomologists Urge Action, Advocacy After 2018 March for Science

2018 March for Science

Entomologists Ashley Kennedy (left) and Lina Bernaola participated in the 2018 March for Science in Washington, DC, on April 14.  Kennedy and Bernaola say that, though the March was smaller than the 2017 edition, it left them inspired to “continue taking steps forward to enhance advocacy for science.” (Photo courtesy of Ashley Kennedy and Lina Bernaola)

By Lina Bernaola and Ashley Kennedy

April 14 was a busy and beautiful day in Washington, DC. Thousands of people flocked to the capital city to partake in the Cherry Blossom Parade, the Walk for Epilepsy, the Emancipation Day Parade, and—last not but least—the 2018 March for Science. The latter event drew the two of us from near and far: Ashley took the Metro in from Northern Virginia, and Lina flew in from Louisiana just for the occasion. We met up in front of the Washington Monument during the pre-March rally.

Although the turnout this year was smaller than last year, the crowd’s energy and enthusiasm were palpable. Marchers carried signs with slogans such as “Science, Not Silence,” “No Science, No Beer,” “There Is No Planet B,” and—our favorite—”E.O. Wilson for President!” Among the various chants the crowd repeated along the march route was: “What do we want? Science-based policy! When do we want it? After peer review!

One appreciable difference between the 2017 and 2018 marches in Washington was the weather. Last year’s March was rainy and chilly; this year, temperatures climbed above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sun never retreated. Whereas Entomological Society of America (ESA) members at the 2017 March enjoyed a chance to dry off and warm up over coffee at a member meet-up space, this year, in contrast, it was a challenge to stay cool! We indulged instead in popsicles from a vendor near the March’s kick-off point.

For the second year running, ESA commissioned member Carly Tribull, Ph.D., assistant professor at Farmingdale State College, to create artwork to promote science advocacy. Her illustrations of beetles (setting a good example by casting their votes!) were developed into commemorative pins, stickers, and a poster, which is still available for download as a PDF.

The 2018 March organizers placed emphasis on local action and education. To this end, groups such as the American Chemical Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science hosted “teach-ins” in tents on the National Mall before the March. In addition to the DC event, more than 200 satellite events were held in such wide-ranging locales as Uganda, Antarctica, London, New Delhi, Sydney, and numerous U.S. cities.

For instance, entomologist Isabel Betancourt, curatorial assistant of entomology at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, attended a Rally for Science in the heart of Philadelphia, with featured speakers including “next generation” representatives: a high school student, a college student, and a Ph.D. student. “I found the event inspiring and I left feeling an expanded sense of pride in the Philadelphia science scene,” Betancourt says.

Philadelphia March for Science 2018

Scientists of all stripes, including entomologists, participated in the March for Science activities around the world, including Philadelphia’s Rally for Science. (Photo courtesy of Isabel Betancourt)

What’s Next?

Even though the march is over, we must continue taking steps forward to enhance advocacy for science. As scientists, we may not always think about public policy, because our daily jobs do not always allow us enough time to consider it. However, as a national society, ESA has the responsibility to defend and advance the sciences. We can do so in different ways:

  • Engage our community through educational webinars on science advocacy.
  • Seek more inclusiveness and diverse to gather the best ideas and maintain a greater perspective to further science advocacy across the globe.
  • Increase active membership to gain more influence and footholds in different parts of society, both public and private, to lead advocacy.
  • Raise awareness by holding seminars covering policy topics, inviting scientists from different levels within government and private sector.
  • Volunteer at ESA to engage our community and support the science of entomology.
  • Use social media platforms to share your voice and concerns about science communication and public engagement. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram can reach and inform numerous scientists and nonscientists about science policy, advocacy, and outreach events.

Why Did We March for Science?

Lina: “Growing up in a middle-income Hispanic community, the importance of learning in school and focusing on science education was always emphasized. Agriculture tied in closely with food security and the economics of my country. Science attempts to provide solutions for these issues. I march for science because I represent diversity within my current community. As a woman, I feel empowered to expand opportunities for later generations. I want to believe that my actions will influence, and perhaps be a guide to, someone else’s life in the future.”

Ashley: “I used to take it for granted that everyone understood the importance of science, but I’ve come to realize that this isn’t the case. I hope that the March and similar advocacy efforts will draw attention to the countless ways it improves our daily lives. I took the momentum from the March and made a visit to Capitol Hill a few days later to advocate for federal funding of scientific agencies. No matter where someone falls on the political spectrum, they should appreciate how much we owe to the many subdisciplines of science. ”

Lina Bernaola is a Ph.D. candidate at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the current student representative to the ESA Governing Board and a member of both the ESA Student Affairs Committee and the ESA Early Career Professionals Committee. Twitter: @linabernaola. Email: lbernaola@agcenter.lsu.edu

Ashley Kennedy is a third-year Ph.D. student in Doug Tallamy’s lab at the University of Delaware in Newark, where she studies bird-insect food webs. She is the ESA Eastern Branch Representative to the ESA Student Affairs Committee, a Linnaean Games devotee, and a member of the 2017 Class of Science Policy Fellows. Twitter: @WhatDoBirdsEat. Email: kennedya@udel.edu.

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