Kat Route-Stephens is a Specialist Advisor for Marine Industries and Energy with Natural Resources Wales. As part of Environment Platform Wales’ first national conference specialising in Marine Evidence, we catch up with workshop presenter Katherine to see what makes her tick.
Can you give us a flavour of what can attendees expect at your conference session?
The workshop will be interactive with lots of discuss, so be prepared to get involved!. Marine renewable energy is a really hot topic at the moment. Wales has fantastic natural resources providing stunning landscapes, habitats and species that are treasured and enjoyed. They could also be harnessed to provide marine renewable energy.
We want to understand the current mindset to evidence for wave and tidal energy, what research is already going on and what else can we take forward with the help of the excellent academic community in Wales.
As with anything new and novel, there are uncertainties about how wave and tidal devices may interact with the environment and we don’t have all the evidence yet. So the question is, how can we balance all of this in a Climate Emergency?
Can you tell us a little bit of our background and how you found your way to the ole you are doing at the moment?
After finishing my BSc in Marine Geography at Cardiff University I was fortunate enough to get a job at Natural Resources Wales (NRW) in the marine licensing team. My degree gave me a good grounding to pick up the job quickly, having an understanding of marine legislation and policy was essential. I learnt a huge amount on the job and set me up nicely for my current role as a Specialist Marine Industries and Energy Advisor. I love this job, I work with technical experts, regulators, external parties and lots of other stakeholders all passionate about the marine environment. I also have the support of amazing colleagues at NRW.
What fires you up about your work and what message do you wish people would take on board?
Getting marine renewable energy devices into the water is a tricky business! To see the sector take off, it needs collaboration between industry, academics, regulators, advisors, NGO and all the other stakeholders to be involved to reduce environmental uncertainty. Evidence is crucial to moving the sector forward. If you are doing research or have a project that could help to answer the questions and reduce uncertainty, make sure people know about it.
Any standout moments for you in your career so far or goals for the next few years?
It feels like a pivotal moment for marine renewable energy. My goal for the next few years is to help move us toward 100% renewable energy generation that is also good for the environment, getting the right development in the right place. Seeing more devices in the water and everyone having a good understanding of the environmental interactions will be a big achievement. I’m excited to be at the forefront.
So far there have been two stand out moments in my career; setting new legislation with Welsh Government, and meeting with the First Minister to talk about how to move marine renewable energy forward in Wales.
Anything you wish you’d been told before you started out on your career path?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to come up with all the answers by yourself. If you need help, ask!
Your biggest hero / influencer in your professional life?
David Attenborough, I remember watching Blue Planet for the first time and being absolutely certain that marine was my career path. My Dad is an oceanographer by trade, so it is no surprise he has been a huge influence and support.
Something about you people might be surprised to know…. ?
Cycled from London to Amsterdam raising over £50,000 for the mental health charity Mind.
The book that changed your life…?
Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg…and of course Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!
Catch up with Kat and get access to more than 65 other talks, workshops and presentations at Environment Platform Wales’ inaugural conference: Marine Evidence (Wales) 2019.
For upcoming events from the Environment Platform, checkout EP Wales Events.