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More Than 1,000 March Statewide in Support of Science

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A.J. Higgins
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Maine Public
Hundreds march on the Mall at the University of Maine in Orono on Saturday.

A global effort to promote science and scientific research produced ripples Saturday in Maine, where marches and demonstrations were held in six communities.

About 1,000 people walked in Portland to support investment in evidence-based scientific projects and the teaching of science and math in local school departments. In Orono, more than 300 gathered in front of Fogler Library on the University of Maine campus to oppose what some say are increasing tendencies by government officials to dismiss proven scientific theory that clashes with partisan political goals.

Dr. Tom Keller, the executive director of the Maine Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Council, told the crowd that science must be more accessible to the public and that Mainers should send that message to their lawmakers.

“Right now in front of the Maine Legislature, there is a bill for Maine to adopt a set of standards called the Next Generation Science Standards,” he said. “I would encourage you to look into this. This is a very important thing and, for some reason, it seems to be controversial. I don’t understand it — 20 other states have adopted this. Science in Minnesota is no different than science in Maine. Why do we have we need to have separate sets of standards? That just makes no sense.”

Another speaker at the Orono event was Dr. Andre Khalil, director of UMaine’s Computational Modeling, Analysis of Imagery and Numerical Experiments Laboratory, also known as CompuMAINE, which conducts image and signal processing, analysis and modeling. He said it’s not always easy to explain the significance of the scientific research that he and others at the lab have undertaken.

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Credit Caroline Losneck / Maine Public
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Maine Public
Crowds at the science march gather in Congress Square park in Portland to listen to speakers Saturday.

“So a lot of people will say, ‘Well, why do you study stars and such that are light years away? And we still have people dying in Africa and we have droughts and famine,’ and the answer is that often, the discoveries that we’re making in astronomy help us to develop technology that eventually has use on Earth here,” he said.

In addition to the drizzly rally at UMaine, hundreds turned out in front of Portland City Hall, where an event to support the March for Science in Washington, D.C., attracted numerous educators, scientists, students and curious residents.

Lara Bluhm, a student studying anthropology and archeology at Bowdoin College, attended the rally along with hundreds of classmates. She said she first became concerned about a de-emphasis on scientific research after the election of President Donald Trump.

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Credit Caroline Losneck / Maine Public
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Maine Public
Bowdoin College student Lara Bluhm

“I remember seeing a news article shortly after the election that all the web pages on the White House website regarding climate change and environmental protection were gone — they were just taken off,” she said. “And that is terrifying to me. It raised questions about why that is being done.”

Other rallies or marches were held in Gouldsboro, Machias, Sanford and Unity. Science supporters are preparing to stage another rally next Saturday when the People’s Climate March will be held in Augusta.

Maine Public Radio freelancer Caroline Losneck contributed to this report.