UW-Madison Science Alliance Updater – May 1, 2023

 UW-Madison Science Alliance Updater

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 Monday 1 May 2023

 Hi Everyone

May Day is among our most conflicted holidays: it is one of those days that you can look at in several different ways.  For example, to medieval Europeans, May Day actually marked the beginning of summer, rather than the high point of spring.

As an altar boy at St. Mary’s School in Dixon IL, May Day was a Procession Day in honor of the paradoxical Virgin Mother.  But at home on College Avenue we still made the pagan-inflected May Baskets and delivered them anonymously to neighbors and friends.  We didn’t spend much time thinking about the pre-Christian versions of the rites of spring centered on May Day, although the musical Camelot had recently given us a rousing reason to remember.

May Day was also Law Day, instituted under Ike but brought to its fullest fulmination under Nixon in the earliest weeks of his presidency, which ended ignominiously if not so lawfully five years later.  In grade school in the late ‘60s we were instructed lightly about Law Day, but we didn’t talk at all about how for much of the world May Day was International Workers Day, or how it started that way here in the USA in 1889, even though in 1965 there were still people alive who remembered the Haymarket Bombing that ignited it all.

May Day is complicated.  So is the enterprise of science. In last week’s missive I noted that in Holden Thorp’s talk on April 17 he emphasized that a primary task for scientists engaging in outreach is to “teach the public that science is a social, self-correcting process.”  I agree. Moreover, and since my Dad was a high school history teacher, who as an undergrad at Marquette (home of Numen Flumenque) wrote a thesis on the Wobblies (The Industrial Workers of the World), on this May Day I’d like to add that history, too, may be viewed as a similarly social, self-correcting process.

Last week I also noted that in her investiture speech the chancellor highlighted Harry Steenbock for his two inventions:  1) the use of light to activate precursors of Vitamin D to fortify food & thereby helping to eliminate rickets, and 2) the formation of WARF (the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation).  The stories of both, however, are tied, perhaps tangled, with another saga of Wisconsin:  oleomargarine.

As the chancellor mentioned, Steenbock’s patent empowered him to prevent shysters from falsely claiming their charlatan products had been beneficently supplemented. But as Kevin Walters, the historian at WARF, discovered in his review of Steenbock’s correspondence, Steenbock also specifically wanted to keep oleo manufacturers from enriching margarine using his patented Vitamin D discovery.

Here’s a pivotal paragraph from PBS Wisconsin’s transcript of Kevin’s talk in 2019 entitled “Steenbock and the Patenting of University Science” to Wednesday Nite @ The Lab:

“So first, that’s kind of my methods, but being a historian I can’t just say that and expect you to believe it. We have to actually go back and find sources. These are all things that I concluded after about five years of researching Harry Steenbock’s life. So let’s go back to the beginning. The first question I asked, and I actually thought this was just going to be like the first chapter, which was why did Steenbock patent? It ended up being basically the whole dissertation. So I had to figure out why did he patent. This is the guy who’s famous for patenting. The guy who got published in newspapers because of his patent. Why did he do it? And so I found a manuscript he first wrote in late 1925, finalized early in January 1926. It was called “The relations of the writer to the Wisconsin alumni research foundation and the events that led to its organization.” I won’t say that again, but it’s a long title. But it’s him writing at the time, this is why I did what I did. And you had this sentence which was pretty clear. The oleo margarine manufacturer can make his product superior to butter. What he is saying is that if they use my vitamin fortification process on margarine, then they will be able to compete with butter. And the dairy industry is a strong supporter of the college of agriculture. He didn’t want margarine to be competing with butter. Like that’s kind of a long story short. He wanted to prevent the fortification of margarine. That was what originally motivated him.

Some talks are inspiring, and some are breath-taking.  For me, this one was both.  Since oleo was a less-expensive competitor of butter, the drive by Steenbock to block the nutritional enrichment of margarine may have benefited Wisconsin dairy farmers, and it may have benefited the College of Agriculture, but it did not help those Wisconsin consumers who by taste preferred or by budget deferred to margarine.  It was not a friendly decision for America’s oleo-eating poor.

Furthermore, Kevin pointed out that while Steenbock may not have sought wealth, nevertheless he became a millionaire from his original discovery and from his follow-on investments that were informed in part from his associations with the wealthy men who ran WARF.

This May Day, this multi-storied holiday, is a good day to recall and to reaffirm that as university scholars in science outreach our handiwork is a fabric of many threads, some tangled & others knotted.  Whether we ret, spin or weave, we hold in our hands wide responsibilities and broad-ranging obligations to help people sew together their own understanding of science, and its histories, as a social, self-correcting process.


Tom Zinnen

Coming Up This Week and This Coming Month

1.  The UW-Madison Science Alliance meets Mondays at 10:00 am by Zoom.  Our next meeting is today, Monday, May 1 by zoom

The Zoom link for the spring meetings of Science Alliance will continue to be: https://zoom.us/my/glbrc.weieducation.vmr?pwd=L2Q0L0g0S3lEd2gyazNscjA1d2JYZz09

The draft agenda for May 1, 2023 at 10 am includes:• Welcome• Updates 

•UW Family Gardening Day May 6

• Mark your calendars for 22nd Annual UW Science Expeditions April 5, 6 & 7, 2024

• Other Business

• Meet next on Monday, May 8, 2023, 10 am, by zoom.

 As with the #Updater, the Science Alliance meeting notes are also archived on https://science.wisc.edu/science-alliance/.

 2. Recurring Programming Events Coming This Week and Soon

 Saturday Science Workshops at UW Space Place  nearly every Saturday, from 10 am to 11 am.

These family-friendly events are always free and open to the public every Saturday morning during the school year. This program is held in person only at UW Space Place, 2300 S. Park St, Madison. The workshop starts promptly at 10:00 and is typically over by 11:00.

 Badger Talks:  Watch in-person, or online live or in archive at  https://www.facebook.com/BadgerTalks/live_videos/  and check the schedule for Badger Talks LIVE and In-Person Badger Talks live or online are listed at  https://badgertalks.wisc.edu/events/.  Also, check out the current schedule of In-Person Badger Talks occurring in communities across Wisconsin.   And you can join the new BadgerTalks Facebook page here.  


• “Wednesday Nite @ The Lab” series of public science talks every Wednesday night, 50 times a year, at 7pm CT by Zoom (go.wisc.edu/240r59) or in person in Room 1111 Genetics Biotech Center.   On May 3 Sissel Schroeder of Anthropology and Tamara Thomsen of the Wisconsin Historical Society will speak on “Dugout Canoes of Wisconsin.”  

3.  Come to UW Family Gardening Day Saturday May 6, 10am – 1pm

April showers bring May flowers – and also this opportunity to explore campus gardens, greenhouses, and related facilities. Visit the DC Smith Greenhouse (465 Babcock Dr.), Allen Centennial Garden (620 Babcock Dr.), Steenbock Library/BioCommons (550 Babcock Dr.) and Wisconsin Energy Institute (1552 University Ave.). Explore hands-on activities with seeds, plants and soil. Ask questions of Master Gardeners. Discover books for all ages about gardening, plants, soil, water and more. Take home plants and seeds for your own garden (while supplies last).

Plus:  Get your passport to Babcock Ice Cream.

4. News from Edgewood College

There are two upcoming workshops at Edgewood College in collaboration with GearBox Labs, Inc. The May 6th workshop is for students and the May 20th workshop is for educators. All workshops are FREE and more information can be found here: https://store.gearboxlabs.org/index.php?route=product/product&path=61&product_id=263

Thank you so much!

Sarah Stoehr, MA

ROSE Project Coordinator, Edgewood College

5. Opportunities to Share Science with the Public in May at the Discovery Building, 330 N. Orchard St

Hello!  We have some exciting opportunities to share science with the public coming up that we’d love to have you be a part of. Read on for all the details. 😊

May 3 EXPO (hands-on science activities) 

Audience: 500 elementary aged students from MMSD in grades 1, 4, 6

Location: Discovery Building

Timing: 2 shifts (you can sign up for 1 shift or both!)

Shifts: 10:00-11:30am AND/OR 12:00-1:30pm

May 3 JUNIOR SCIENCE CAFÉ (informal conversations about your science career, led by student questions)

Audience: small groups of 6th graders

Location: Discovery Building

Timing: 4 shifts (you can sign up for 1, 2, 3 or all shifts!)

Shifts: 10:15-10:45am, 10:45-11:15am, 12:15-12:45pm, 12:45-1:15pm

To sign up for either opportunity, click here, or reply to this email to let me know.


Questions? Reach out to Val Blair at vblair@morgridge.org

6. Support the 34th Annual Juneteenth Celebration!  

Greetings from Kujichagulia MCSD!

We are planning the 34th Annual Juneteenth Celebration!  We are excited about the event.  We have achieved a significant milestone; national holiday status for Juneteenth.  We are still bouncing back from COVID-19 Pandemic and its impact on our everyday lives.  As we deal with record inflation and financial uncertainty, we embrace the essence of Juneteenth, liberation and transformation!  We have been here as a community and nation.  In the presence of hope and despair, we resiliently choose hope!  Let’s pull together again this year to support Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self Determination as it plans this year’s event.

We are reaching out to you to support the Celebration through financially, personally and by sharing information within your networks.   We benefit from however you choose to render your support.  Please find attached our various packets to help inform your choice(s) of support.

For questions and information please reach out to the Juneteenth Planning Committee at kujijuneteenth@gmail.com​ or visit our www.kujimcsd.org or https://www.facebook.com/KujichaguliaMadison for additional information.


Annie Weatherby-Flowers and The Juneteenth Implementation Committee

7. Check Out the 2022-2023 “Family Science Nights” Opportunities: 


The Calendar of upcoming science outreach at schools is at https://teamup.com/ks37f37f6a8028e6d0

Researchers & Outreachers, if you’d like to help with Family Science Nights over the coming months, please sign up here.

Parents & Teachers, if you’d like help in inviting UW researchers & outreachers to participate in your Family Science event, please sign up here.

8.  UW Arboretum Spring Events

Saturday work parties, Sunday walks, and night walksSaturday restoration work parties, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/get-involved/volunteer/work-parties/See the full list of Sunday walks (nature hikes, family walks, and garden strolls), plus monthly night walks, on the Arboretum events calendar: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events/

Taking a self-guided stroll is one way to explore the Arboretum on your own terms. Some of the most popular routes include the Grady Tract Loop, the Curtis Prairie, or a five mile loop through the whole arboretum. Always remember to stay on the paths to preserve wild plants + wear appropriate shoes.  

You can also take one of the free guided nature walks offered for different skill levels and ages on a weekly basis. Most meet at the Visitor’s Center, located right in the heart of the arboretum.

Nature Walks — Every Sunday at 1 p.m., learn about the land, plants, and animals from local naturalists.

Nature Hikes — On the first and third Sundays of the month, adults are invited on these longer walks.

Family Nature Walks — On the second Sunday of the month, families can explore the arboretum with a guide.

Garden Strolls — On the fourth Sunday of the month, gently-paced strolls are offered with wheelchair-accessible routes.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Check out the calendar for monthly night walks, seasonal birding hikes + more family-friendly events.

The arboretum is open daily from 4 a.m.-10 p.m. and is always free. 

UW Arboretum Events

See Arboretum events calendar for details and registration: https://arboretum.wisc.edu/visit/events/

  9. Events from Madison Friends of Urban Nature

You for helping to publicize Madison FUN Bird and Nature Adventures, now entering our 10th Year! 

 Your support for these volunteer-led year-round weekly outings helps make Madison a welcoming, vibrant and healthy place for both people and nature.


* Join the FUN with Friends of Urban Nature on Parks and Partners co-sponsored outings!

* Free Naturalist Guided outings are offered in local parks and natural areas year round

* Outings are fun, welcoming, diverse, accessible and family and kid friendly

* Enjoy healthy nature recreation with a bit of fascinating nature education


* Just show up, no registration unless noted

* Dress for an outdoor walk, outings are rain or shine unless weather is dangerous

* See monthly outing publicity at http://CityofMadison.com/Parks/Events/Bird-Nature.cfm and co-sponsor social media

* Find trail maps, fun facts and activities at http://Tinyurl.com/MadisonFUNAdventures

* Connect with parks, environmental and friends groups for more great activities

* Support natural areas in every yard, park and neighborhood for kids, birds, bees, and wildlife!


Thanks for helping connect Madison area Communities and Kids with Nearby Nature! 

Paul Noeldner

Volunteer Madison FUN Coordinator

Wisconsin Master Naturalist Instructor

136 Kensington Maple Bluff


608 698 0104