UCSD Students, Faculty March for Science in San Diego

(Connor Gorry / The Triton)

“This is what a sample size looks like!” chanted the crowd at San Diego March for Science.

Joined by UCSD students and faculty, an estimated 15,000 people participated in the San Diego March for Science in downtown San Diego on April 22. San Diego marched with a cohort of about 600 other cities all over the world in recognition of Earth Day to call for the defense and public funding of science in research, medicine, community, and government.

Among private and public organizations in attendance, Dr. Ralph Keeling and Dr. Lynne Talley of UCSD’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) were the first to speak.

Talley touched on the need for broad bipartisan support for science in government and the necessity of funding scientific research. Keeling, the director of the Scripps CO2 Program, spoke on the dangers of climate change denial and his father’s influence in his life to become a scientist.

V.S. Ramachandran speaking at the San Diego March for Science. (Connor Gorry / The Triton)

V.S. Ramachandran speaking at the San Diego March for Science. (Connor Gorry / The Triton)

“The debate [on climate change] is a fake debate,” Keeling said.

He added that he was inspired to pursue science by his father, Dr. Charles Keeling, who is best known for the creation of the “Keeling Curve,” which graphs the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. According to Dr. Ralph Keeling, who has since built upon his father’s research, we have just reached 410 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 emissions this week, already 60 ppm higher than the estimated limit that can be maintained before environmental repercussions are visible.

The march also drew many UCSD students and graduates, as a University where over 50 percent of the student body have declared majors related to STEM fields as of 2016.

“Science benefits us in an all-encompassing manner, whether we see it directly or not,” said Jason Chien, the Review Board Manager of Saltman Quarterly, UCSD’s undergraduate research journal.

Many students, including those at the Saltman Quarterly, also saw this event as an opportunity to reinforce the need for community scientific literacy, regardless of academic background or focus.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to uphold the values of scientific fact,” said Todd Chou, Saltman’s Outreach Director.  

Also in attendance were UCSD graduates Alie and Micah Caldwell, the creators of Neuro Transmissions, a YouTube channel which aims to teach neuroscience to students and children in an accessible way. By breaking down neuroscience topics into bite-sized videos and adding an artistic element with animations, the Caldwells strive to provide an alternative to the long-form science lectures found online.

Several representatives from the Dr. James Nieh Honey Bee Lab were found at the march in beekeeper costumes, toting signs like “Bee Better.” When asked by The Triton for a comment, they initially joked, responding, “Buzz buzz!” However, when asked specifically about what they hope to promote by marching, they responded, “The sweetest nectar is science. Bee skeptical of everything.”

Continuing a trend of bee metaphors, Dr. Stephen Mayfieldone of the closing speakers, compared the various research groups in San Diego to beehives and said that aggressors were pelting them with rocks.

“During the next election, remember those who threw the rocks,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield was joined by San Diego Congressman Scott Peters and the Director of the UCSD Center for Brain and Cognition, Dr. V. S. Ramachandran, who discussed his recent research in patients who can visualize calendars in a complex neurological and cognitive system.

Representatives from the Dr. James Nieh Honey Bee Lab. (Connor Gorry / The Triton)

Representatives from the Dr. James Nieh Honey Bee Lab. (Connor Gorry / The Triton)

Paraphrasing Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ramachandran was able to promote a broader understanding of fundamental science to the community within a matter of minutes.

“Science literacy is the artery through which tomorrow’s solution will flow,” he said.

Although UCSD was a large presence at the March, several private and public organizations were in attendance as well, including:

Saunil Dobariya is a staff writer for The Triton. Connor Gorry contributed to the reporting of this article.