The Atlantic

A Day With the Women Scientists Protesting Trump

“What do we want? Data! When do we want it? Forever!”
Source: Robinson Meyer / The Atlantic

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Jane Zelikova is not a “protest person.”

“I’m so anti-protest, and so anti-demonstration,” she told me. “Growing up in the U.S.S.R., I always have that sense that protest is theater.”

Even after she moved to the United States, she retained her suspicion of demonstrations large and small. They seemed to rarely achieve their goals, and they reminded her of the government-planned pageantry of her youth. As a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder, she attended a protest during the run-up to the Iraq War—only to leave before it ended out of personal unease.

Since then, her research into community ecology has taken her to the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica and the high-elevation deserts of Utah. It let her spend months studying leafcutter ants, a colony-dwelling creature that grows fungus for its food; and it introduced her to Pseudobombax septenatum, a tree sheathed in photosynthetic bark that can store water in its trunk for months at a time.

But her life as a scientist didn’t bring her to a mass protest until January 21, 2017, when she joined roughly 50 other female scientists—and hundreds of thousands of demonstrators—at the Women’s March on Washington. She marched as part of 500 Women Scientists, a new advocacy group for science and scientists that she and several of her friends established in the weeks after the election.

Most of the women walked in white lab coats, on which they had written with Sharpie the

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