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City becomes scientific showcase

Scientists have taken over Ashland.

Around 250 to 300 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Pacific Division have gathered to celebrate the organization’s 100th annual meeting.

Scientists are participating in community events through Saturday, June 22, to open conversation about science-related topics, specifically the environment and climate change.

Events started Tuesday when the conference opened. A reception in Southern Oregon University’s Schneider Museum of Art featured science-inspired art. A plenary session with the scientists featured Klamath River Renewal Corporation community liaison Dave Meurer and his presentation, “De-daming the Klamath River.”

Jim Bower, SOU affiliate biology professor, is the executive director of the Pacific Division.

He said there already is a lot of passion and excitement from the Rogue Valley on these important topics, so the meeting’s purpose is to bring in experts to have conversations on the impacts of climate change at local and larger levels.

“What happens when scientists go to meetings is they show up, have a good time and they leave, and nobody knows what happened or cares,” Bower said. “And one of the things we’re trying to do is make an explicit effort to reach out to the community.”

Anyone may attend the scheduled events and participate in workshops. Register at https://bit.ly/2MWe8fy. There is a $35 registration fee, and AAAS membership is not necessary. Some scheduled field trips require pre-registration and additional fees.

Bower said members of organizations such as the Pollinator Project Rogue Valley will hold a daylong symposium and will be joined by an expert on how bees think.

Everyone is invited to join participants for a Science Pub Crawl from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 19. About 10 to 20 scientists will be at bars around Ashland to present and speak to the public. Topics include “the social, economic and political impacts of climate change” at the Black Sheep Pub & Restaurant, then “Fires!” at Harvey’s Place Restaurant and Bar, and finally a “Climate Change Poetry Jam” at Oberon’s.

Scientists participating in the meeting are presenting their research during symposiums and workshops throughout the week.

“We’re trying to mix real life experience with expertise,” Bower said.

He said there are local community members involved in the meeting, as well as scientists traveling from as far away as Europe.

“We’re bringing in experts to talk to local people who have concerns and are thinking about things from a scientific point of view,” Bower said. “Can we enhance the depth of understanding or sophistication by linking those people? We even have a whole big section on how to influence decisions locally and regionally — how do we connect science to decisions made in Salem or by the city council?”

Registered participants will also go on various excursions around Southern Oregon, including a tour of the Southern Oregon Western and High Cascade Volcanics and a resilient forestry tour at Willow-Witt forest.

Topics for symposiums and workshops range from “a glimpse into the possible future of Oregon wineries” to “the future of precision medicine,” which Bower described as “what if a doctor knew your DNA before treating you?”

For a full list of scheduled events, visit https://bit.ly/2Rss8wc.

The last AAAS meeting in Ashland was in 2010.

AAAS is the largest general scientific society and includes roughly 120,000 members in more than 91 countries. The Pacific Division includes more than 30,000 members in California, Hawaii, Idaho, western Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta and most other Pacific Basin countries, according to a press release.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

(June 19: Story updated to correct the number of AAAS members from 12,000 to 120,000.)

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneGuests from Los Angeles make their way through SOU’s Schneider Museum looking at displays of science art Tuesday afternoon.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneGuests make their way through SOU’s Schneider Museum looking at displays of science art Tuesday afternoon.