CALS student helps organize Iowa March for Science

Kaitlin Higgins and her daughter at the event.

Kaitlin Higgins, a senior in genetics who earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 2015, helped organize the Iowa March for Science. The state version of the national event took place April 22 (Earth Day 2017) at the State of Iowa Capitol complex to draw attention to the importance of science and the need to make it more accessible. An estimated 3,000 people participated in a rally and educational exhibits.

Several Iowa State faculty, students and alumni spoke or led teach-in sessions, including:

  • Pat Boddy (’80, MS, agricultural engineering), who served as master of ceremonies
  • Jamie Benning, program manager for Extension To Agriculture, water quality teach in
  • Clark Wolf, philosophy professor, teach in on Reasons for "Pointless" Research
  • Jill Pruetz, professor of world languages and culture, teach in on chimpanzee tool use
  • Helena Khazdozian, postdoc researcher at Ames Laboratory, wind energy teach in
  • Julie Kuhlman, assistant professor of genetics, development and cell biology, teach in on developmental biology

The keynote speaker was Michelle Miller, known as the “Farm Babe” who works on the family farm and uses social media to connect farmers and consumers.

Higgins answered some questions last week about planning the event.

How would you describe the Iowa March for Science?
The march is nonpartisan because science denial happens on both sides of the political aisle, and we don’t pretend it’s a one-sided issue. Additionally, different political allegiances represent different ways of viewing the world, and innovation comes from a diversity of thought.

Extension's water quality team leads a teach in.

How/why did you get involved in the event?
I got involved right after the initial announcement because I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the denial of scientific consensus on things like vaccines and genetically engineered crops. So this has been building for the better part of two decades and the silencing of the EPA was the initial catalyst followed by many more decisions that caused more scientists to realize the need for this march.

What is your role?
My official title is vice president. I’ve helped with fundraising by coordinating our kind.fund and bonfire shirts, online presence by helping with Facebook, Twitter and our website (www.marchforscienceiowa.org) … outreach by trying to spread the word, and inviting speakers and teach-in presenters. I’ve also helped with smaller marches throughout the state.

What is planned for the participants?
• a rally with a great lineup of speakers from 12-1
• a march around the capitol complex from 1-2:30
• teach-ins from 2:30-4 on specific topics like how to explain science in an effective manner.

What do you hope are some outcomes?
One goal is to convince legislators that they need to rely on evidence for scientific policy, instead of making science a partisan issue. Another is to increase the accessibility of science to everyone, because we believe part of the issue when it comes to scientific policy is that voters think of scientists as pretentious and inaccessible so they elect people who think the same. If we make science more accessible to the general public, it follows that they will elect more science-friendly representatives.

We hope to continue efforts to increase accessibility after the march, exactly what that looks like we aren’t sure yet but one idea I’m fond of is “Ask a scientist night” where we would have a couple of scientists go to underserved communities and answer questions people have as well as show them how to find reliable sources for future questions they may have. If any of your readers are interested in keeping up to date with what we're doing, they can follow us on Facebook or check out our website at www.marchforscienceiowa.org.

What do you do for work?
I’m a full time student graduating in May, and looking for a full-time job. My major goals in life are to help people live better lives through applied science and technology, and to make sure my kids have a better childhood than I did. But isn’t that every parent’s goal?

An estimated 3,000 people participated in the Iowa March for Science.