Podcast: Kate Stephenson | Kate on Conservation

Have you thought about starting a blog? Are you passionate about writing and communicating and want to share your thoughts, experiences and opinions? Will it make a difference? 

Kate Stephenson did just this nine years ago when she started her blog, Kate on Conservation. Now her award winning blog highlights important conservation issues, individuals and organisations and tries to give a voice to the voiceless.

In this fascinating chat, we talk about her blogging journey, as she shares her advice on how to get going. She also reveals her career path to date and the lessons she’s learned along the way. So if you’re interested in communications, education and conservation, you’re going to love this one. Enjoy. 

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Audio Transcript 

Kate   

I’m Kate Stephenson. I run a blog kateonconservation.com and I have a background in career in journalism and writing, and also educational media. And I use that to really indulge in my passion of conservation and animal welfare, and just kind of bring together all my interests into my career. And I’ve been really lucky to have been able to do that. 

Nick   

I’ve been conscious of your blog now for a number of years actually. I feel like I sort of semi know you. But this is the first time we’ve actually properly met or talked anyway, we’ve emailed you know, backwards and forwards. But your blog Kate on Conservation has really been a popular blog, something that’s followed by a lot of people. You talk about lots of topics, you know, animal welfare and campaigning, you’ve met lots of conservation heroes. They use it to kind of to educate people about conservation too. And you’ve been doing it for like nine years now. What made you start your blog in the first place? Let’s go back to the beginning of your blogging career let’s talk about that.  

Kate   

I actually started my blogging as part of my degree. I did a degree in English language communications as my major. Additional to that I was doing media, cultures and journalism. And one of the modules I was doing for journalism was online journalism. 2009, I started it. Prior to that, when I was doing A levels, we were focusing on writing news for newspapers, news for print. And then obviously, that is a big emerging change in how you write and structure stories for the internet. You know, we were just learning about Google algorithms and search engine optimisation and all those things now but it just embedded in our lives was something that people teaching degrees in journalism and media, the lecturers themselves, had to catch up with the new things that we as students were learning. They created online journalism module. And for that, you had to set up a space to write online news and engage with people online, write things that you were optimising for being discoverable on Google. So they said set up a blog, choose a topic that you feel you can write about that also gives a bit of you because I think at that point, people were a bit confused over where a blogger sat in terms of personal or news blogging or blogging, whatever be appropriate for journalism. And so I think everyone was learning all at the same time. And that’s where I started my blogs. I thought, well, I am interested in a lot news that’s to do with conservation. And I saw it as an opportunity to instead of go chasing the grittier world news stuff that perhaps we were doing in news journalism beforehand, I thought I can put myself and my interest into this part of my education. And that was really exciting. And that’s where I started the blog. Quite funny now, when we did a presentation about what our blogs were going to be and what they were going to be about. When I spoke about mine, one of the questions that came back to me was, do you think there’ll be enough to write about, to sustain this, through the whole of the module, which was obviously the half, you know, maybe half a year, you know, the whole of the semester, do you think you can keep writing about conservation, and here I am, nine years later, still feeling like I’m at the beginning of my blogging career. That always makes me laugh, actually, when I think about that.

Nick   

How do you stay motivated with blogging as well, because it’s kind of unrelenting in a way? You know, you’re publishing lots of posts. There’s lots of outreach social media. I mean, it’s something that you just love to do? You wake up, you thrive around it, or is a bit of a slog? I mean, how do you keep going? 

Kate   

That’s why I’m really glad I chose the topic that I did. I didn’t intend on becoming a blogger. I intended on becoming a journalist and the blog started as this part of my studies. And because I loved it, because I loved actually being able to apply the journalism skills that I was learning and the writing skills to an actual thing that I’m passionate about. I have always been passionate about wildlife initially, to begin with. It started with a big interest in like big cats and African wildlife and then evolved into understanding everything’s connected and that involves the environment. As this passion grew it kept opening up what I can talk about and how I see things. I was joining the dots all the time of what’s going on in wildlife conservation in all parts of the world, how all affects each other, you know, and understanding more about climate change and human activity and the illegal wildlife trade. So I always feel like I’m learning and the depth of what there is out there to learn is is huge. And when I’m learning, I’m excited about things. When I’m learning about stuff that I have a passion for, or that I feel I can maybe help make a difference with, that passion sort of multiplies and I love it. You know, I don’t feel like I have a blog that’s part of my job or something I do sometimes. I feel like I have a lifestyle that is wildlife conservation, communicating, education, and the blog is the platform for paying for that lifestyle. There’s no separation. I don’t finish work at the end of the day. I live it and the blog space is where I put that out and let other people jump in and live it with me. 

 Nick   

And how have you found the response to your blog in like, how have people, the community fed back to you? What’s been the kind of the feedback so far? 

Kate   

Fantastic, obviously, it can be complicated in terms of when I’m talking about campaigns and things that make people feel uncomfortable. There is a level when you’re either a science communicator, communicator, a voice for animals, a voice for the voiceless, you know, when you’re kind of mixing those worlds and you’re talking to people, it can be uncomfortable. So I always have to think about empathy when I’m writing and I think about where I’ve come from, and maybe mistakes that I’ve made in my life, things I’ve done, because I certainly have when I didn’t know as much as what I know now, I went to South Africa and petted lion cubs, which I now know is like one of the worst things you can do. It feeds into the canned hunting industry and trophy hunting and things like that. So I always try and talk to people. You know, I talk to my audience as if it’s someone I know and I care about I talk as if I’m talking to myself who didn’t know these things. And I think because I admit openly the things that I’ve done that I realise haven’t helped or have actually been detrimental to the things I’m now trying to voice or educate about. Do I think hopefully they don’t feel too ashamed or uncomfortable or whatever to admit what they’ve done. And I think people feel a trust and I think that trust is there because I’ve been doing it for so long. I’ve watched other people kind of grow up with me. And it feels like I’m in a support network rather than just me talking to it to readers. I do feel like its part of a network of people in this thing together, being passionate. Sometimes it’s new people coming in who haven’t thought about stuff. And I’ve got amazing messages from people saying, I didn’t know this. And you know, now I’m spreading the word about this thing that you’ve helped me understand, or I’ve had other people come along and say, you know, I started reading your blog when I was, you know, a teenager, I was in high school, or I was, you know, just started university. And now I’m at this point in my career, because it’s long term, it feels so special. I feel like what I’m doing is a privilege for me, and if it helps other people, that’s fantastic. But for me, it’s helped me grow and learn. And hopefully I’ve said that and other people have grown and learnt with me. So it’s relationship building. 

Nick   

Rightly so. Yeah, and it’s your voice in it. Obviously, it’s you reflects who you are and you know, and what you believe in. What have been some of the posts on your site that you’ve written have really taken off or been, you know, really captivated people, had a lot of engagement, a lot of interest. And why do you think they might have been so interesting to people? What was it about them?  

Kate   

I mean, because I’ve been doing it for so long, I’ve written such a wealth of posts and at different times different things have taken off. And sometimes that’s reflective of what I’m doing, what medium I’m doing. A couple of years ago, I did an interview with Aiden Gallagher, who’s an actor and a UN ambassador for the environment. Because I think people are listening to a lot of podcasts at the moment I sort of embedded this interview into a podcast, someone that I know who runs his wild voices project run by Matt Williams. 

Nick   

Matt Williams friend of the show. Yeah. 

Kate   

He put that out on his podcast, I shared the link in my blog, and that’s doing really nicely at the moment, because people are looking at podcasts or listening. Previously when it felt like you know, so sort of when video got big, you know, when we started seeing IGTV you know, Instagram television coming off and people really getting involved in through vlogs and YouTube, things that I’ve done with vlogs and YouTube has been great. So it hasn’t always been about the subject. Sometimes it’s about the way you put the message across. And then other times absolutely is the subject. So if it’s something that’s topical at that time, so when I’ve written about societies, a convention, there’s some to do with trade and conservation to animals, I’ve written things that are timely to that. 

Nick   

Did you do that on purpose? Did you realise this is a hot topic? Endangered species trade, I’m going to write about it. Was it just a coincidence? I mean, how do you choose your topics? You know, you’re looking at the media, are you talking about the Coronavirus right now?  

Kate   

I’m absolutely led by that because a lot of people that read my blog, they want to know what’s happening now. I have things that I call evergreen posts, which are posts that will always be interesting. You know, if I have written something about trafficking of pangolin it’s an ongoing issue. I’ve written something about why lions need saving and how fantastic lions are that will always be something people return to. There are things that have grown in number because they’ve been there so long and they’ve always been relevant. Every time that there’s another convention for international trade of endangered species, people returning to those posts again and seeing well what happened last time? We’re the animals that you’re talking about now, have been moved up to appendix one, where were they four years ago. So some things come back around as being relevant. Some things are always interesting to people. And some things just have a lifespan. A post I wrote very recently about the tiger kings in Europe. So the people who own and trade tigers in Europe privately, and that’s obviously a response to the Netflix series that’s just come out, Tiger King, where that’s the hot topic. Everyone’s talking about that. And I imagine in a year or so time, people won’t be returning to that post and reading it because they’ll have forgotten and moved on. And that’s sort of how I plan and do a blog schedule. It doesn’t happen by accident. I sit and I plan what I’m doing. I’m doing and I try and create content in that way where I regularly put out something that feels evergreen, something that’s topical right now and something that may come back again as being topical, that’s going to come back around on a cycle. And I think if I hit those notes regularly, people coming back, that’s what keeps them interested.  

Nick   

Are you planning weeks, months ahead? I mean, how far is your schedule looking right now?  

Kate   

It depends. I plan up to the end of the year, but I do weekly posts. And I have a plan for at least one of my posts that’s going to come out every month till the end of the year. And that’s sort of the evergreen stuff. Obviously, the thing that sort of the midway points and sometimes stuff that can come back around or that will be relevant for a while. Sometimes that can be things like collaborations with people. Things do well as well if they feature a popular person. So I’ve got ten things you didn’t know about David Attenborough, and that does really well, every time there’s a new David Attenborough series. 

Nick   

What’s the most surprising thing that we don’t know about David Attenborough? Do you remember any of them? I’m intrigued. 

 Kate   

I got the opportunity to speak to him. So I included some things that I personally asked him. So I asked him what his favourite animal was. And he told me that it changes constantly. But at that point in time, it was really weedy sea dragon. Then, a month later, I actually read in a Radio Times interview someone saying, what’s the animal that most impresses you? What’s your favourite animal? And he said, a human baby. And then a month later, I read something else and he said things like a bird of paradise. And that’s what he’d like to be a bird of paradise. So I genuinely I really enjoyed that like, I could genuinely prove that. And so his favourite animal really does change.  

Nick   

And maybe he’s playing with it as well, because he probably gets to ask about that question all the time. Right. So yeah, might have a bit of fun. 

Kate   

And there was some great things that you know, maybe if you know David Attenborough you already know this, but there’s great things like he always wears a blue shirt and beige trousers.  

Nick   

Right.  

Kate   

The reason is because obviously, filming in the field can get muddy and dirty and things happen and stuff spilled on him or whatever. And a lot of the stuff that he films is over a long period of time, so there’s like continuity, but because it’s so predictable that it’s not just continuity per series, he’s working on. It’s also this lifelong thing. You can look back pictures of decades ago, and he’s wearing a light blue shirt and beige trousers. I spoke to someone who’d been in production on the production team for one of the series he worked on, and they said that basically everybody but David Attenborough brings a spare set of clothes but David Attenborough because he knows that he doesn’t need to bring any because everyone else knows exactly what he’s going to be wearing on set brings it for him.  

Nick   

Perfect. I love it. 

Kate   

I didn’t really notice that. And now I can never unsee it like every single picture, there he is. 

Nick   

Same old same old. I think Einstein used to same apparently. He removed any unnecessary decisions through every day, so he work with the morning wore the same thing every day, the same thing every day. And they could just focus on decisions that were important to him, like simplify life for different reasons. But yeah, interesting. There are a lot of people out there really interested in blogging, writing, communicating, really passionate about things like yourself, like this. I was wondering if you’ve got any tips for people about how to write you know how to kind of craft a good story or a good post? You’ve got journalistic training, you got nine years blogging behind you, when you sit down, and it’s not really a I don’t know is it a blank piece of paper? I’m assuming it’s a kind of a blank keyboard screen that you’re looking at. How do you structure, frame? Where do you go from a blank page to a completed article? What’s that process? What do you consider? 

Kate   

Sometimes I definitely start with a blank page, but also sometimes so obviously, I mentioned that some of the things that I write is topical. And when it’s that not always, sometimes it’s just me spotting a trend and reacting to it. But sometimes when it’s topical, it will be press releases that I’ve been sent. So I work in journalism, we often work with press releases. You know, when you’ve got to turn things around quickly with if it’s a daily newspaper, a weekly newsletter, a monthly magazine, there isn’t all the time in the world to write everything from scratch. So I’ve gotten used to using press releases. So that will be maybe a charity or an organisation or government information release or something where people will send me a story and I’ll put that tape what they’ve done and put that in my words and my style. Sometimes it’s reworking someone else’s stuff. But when it is those blank pieces of paper, and it’s the evergreen content that I mentioned, I like that to come from me and where I first start, is obviously with an idea. What do I want to say? What am I interested in? Why is it relevant? And then I evolve that into why am I personally issued in this because a blog isn’t quite the same as journalism and news journalism. Contrary to ten years ago when I was studying at university where people thought maybe it was, we now understand that a blog is different because a blog is there’s a blogger, there’s a person or people on the centre. You have a personality and who draw people in with who they are. I look at research and what I’m trying to say and use lots of different sources, and then mould that into me. Why is this relevant to me? Why do I personally care? Why do I think other people should care? What am I doing that’s reactive to that, you know, if it’s, I’m writing a post about, like, say, petting lion cubs in South Africa. I want to say that I have experienced this firsthand. What have I learned since then, where and how did I learn? What am I doing now? What can you do so because it’s turning stories into a personal relationship, sometimes comforting because I think that’s something we don’t have in news especially at the moment, we’re reading lots of bad news and scary things. And what you can do when you’re a blogger is tell people that we’re in it together, and we understand. So there are a lot of boxes to tick, and I will draft something and I’ll go away and then I’ll come back to it and check that it ticks all those boxes. But I always have to go away and clear my mind because the topic I’m writing is so personally invested.  

Nick   

This is a strange time as we’re recording it’s during Coronavirus. It’s May 2020. So lots of people are isolated, locked down, perhaps got a lot of time in the hands unlike parents like you and I who are just crazy busy. But lots of people have time and some people might be thinking I quite fancy starting a blog. It has been in the back of mind for ages. I’d like to do this. What advice would you give them? Would it be about a) don’t do it or b) if you want to do it what would be your top tips for getting a blog going and finding your groove? 

Kate   

Definitely do it. Do it and experiment in the first instance. Try and find your voice 

If you’re not used to writing but you have something to say just write, just practice, just get started. And then as you sort of start developing that think about who you are as a writer, what you’re trying to say and evolve that then into your interest. Keep yourself in it. If you don’t care, you can’t expect someone reading it to care and it will come across as dry and uninteresting. Find your topic, find your voice and then ultimately find if you can a niche. You know, we hear this quite a lot but there are lots of people, lots of places lots of information all out there online trying to grab everyone’s attention. And if you find something that is your niche that you think, well I can talk with authority about this, or I can talk with interest about this, that helps too. So I think the first thing in writing blog is a lot of self discovery, a lot of reflection. And then once you’ve got that groove going, just keep writing and practicing, and you’ll learn and you’ll meet and you’ll network and you know it’s just being open initially to doing it, but definitely do it. And also don’t be too worried. It is scary, you know, especially when you’re not used to it to kind of hit the publish button, put something out there that’s maybe got your name on it or that you know, you know is going to be ready maybe you’re going to share that on Facebook and you think what are my friends going to think. It’s a great confidence builder when you start doing that because you start thinking. Well actually, I’m not doing this for anyone else. I’m doing this for me, to find this, to learn and to speak about something and then eventually the people start coming to you. And you realise that’s my audience. They’re the same people who are liking my posts on Facebook, they’re commenting on my blog. And it will make sense over time. But the first thing you have to do is get off the starting block, do it.  

Nick   

Start writing. That’s great advice. So let’s talk about your career a bit then too, because blogging has been a really important part of your career, and will continue to do so I’m sure so important to you. But you’ve had other jobs and stuff since university. So cycling the clock back, you did an arts degree at uni, that’s right in English? 

Kate   

Yes, I did English language communication with journalism and media culture. Yes you have here in Australia, so the longest degree title that I’ve ever heard. 

Nick   

So what’s happened between graduation and now then? Fill in the gaps, what have been the main steps you’ve taken? 

Kate   

I’m going to actually maybe take the clock back slightly earlier even. I always knew I wanted to write. Writing was a passion, and alongside wildlife, and I always thought the two would be separate. I always believed that I would write for a living and love and help in whatever capacity conservation or fundraising or whatever capacity animals, you know, I was always animals and wildlife writing. I always consider them as two separate things. With that line of thinking, when I did my A Levels I’m halfway through my A Levels doing well in sort of English and writing journalism. And I thought, well, this is probably going to be it now. I’m probably going to go and do this and make this my life and I may never get the opportunity to go and experience what I like to go and travel and things like that. So I’m going to do it first before university. I sort of had this foresight that when I left university, I didn’t want to take a gap year at the end of university. I wanted to go straight from networking at university, meeting people, building up a portfolio into a career. I did this slightly more unusual thing of having a gap year before I went to uni. I got my place at my university and I deferred it for a year. And during that gap year, I went and volunteered at a Game Reserve in South Africa, Shamwari Game Reserve, Born Free Foundation, which I’ve been a supporter of since I was a child. And I thought, well, I’m going to go and do this and enjoy that. And then I’ll have satisfied that itch perhaps, is what I thought. Then I’ll go and write and I’ll probably write news journalism for a newspaper and that will be what I do. That was kind of the direction that I went in. So I did my amazing volunteering out in Shamwari. And then when I started journalism, at the end of my degree, I did journalism as a separate thing to conservation wildlife. In business to business magazines, writing, about recruitment and HR, I worked for local and regional business to consumer magazines, things that were like a lifestyle sort of trying to sell products or local, advertised local events or that kind of more commercial thing. And then I really sort of started pulling in step with what I’m doing now. Six months after graduating after doing a few short-term contracts, one of the short term contracts I took was in education. Again, this was sort of educational news. I was thinking in this very news, journalism manner. And I took on a job for Channel Four learning, which was making Channel Four news content and documentary content for children. When I was there, the contract got extended from three months to six months. I thought this is great. And then just at the end of my six months contract, the company announced that they were being bought out by Discovery Education. I was like, well, that’s awesome. But then awful for me because I have to leave. Yeah, and I was like, this is first sort of vision of this coming together. I grew up watching like Shark Week, and Steve Irwin on the television, obviously, you know, other amazing documentaries on Discovery to just kind of get this tiny little nod on my CV of two weeks. And I felt like well, it’s really cool, but it’s really awful because they were in the middle of an acquisition there. They were being obviously the company’s being taken over. They didn’t extend any short-term contract. So it really did feel like I got this first look in and then left.  

Nick   

It was like perfect timing and terrible timing at the same time.  

Kate   

And I went back to consumer magazines and looking at getting into news again. Maybe six months after that, I got a phone call from my old boss saying, we’re recruiting again, for now Discovery Education. And we really liked what he did. I was doing a lot of sub editing work and they said, would you come back as a full time sub editor? There is our only in house sub editor where you really get to work across everything. I don’t think I could have said yes, quick enough. And that’s how I got my break at Discovery. I loved doing that. And I really enjoyed doing that for a couple of years, two and a half years I was there. And that was mainly working on documentary and video content. And because I was the only in house sub editor, instead of being boxed into the news side that I was doing before, I was actually working on everything. So I was working on a lot of their, you know, packaging their documentaries that I love watching at home on television, packaging that into stuff for classrooms. So you know, I was doing space things, it was nature, it was brilliant wildlife programmes, it was the Shark Week content. Then it became Racing Extinction, which was the big documentary that was released at that time by Discovery. A lot of people remember it because they lit up the Empire State Building with these amazing photographs of snow leopards, and they lit up the Vatican. And it was a big thing back in 2016 of this racing extinction movement, and I got to be on that. And that was thrilling. And then I thought actually, although I love all the other stuff, the other bits and pieces that were going into this the geography, the history all of this, I really love doing the wildlife stuff, doing the environment stuff. And that’s when I thought I’m going to chase this and instead of doing just video, I want to chase this and do writing and use all those magazines, skills that I’ve learned, use all that environmental stuff that I’ve learned, use all the online things I was learning by blogging at the same time and went in for a job at National Geographic Kids magazine specialising in, you know, the conservation stuff and the environmental things. I didn’t get the job. Gutted because I got this email saying I didn’t get the job. And I was thinking this is just awful. But then at the end, they said, but we do have another position. It’s not a position that we’ve really developed yet. But can you come in and talk to us? So I went in almost in like a sort of consultancy role and they said, we’re launching an education output for schools. You know, they’ve always done this magazine, but we’ve never done like this online education thing for schools and because you’ve got children’s education element of your background, would you consider it? Would you think it will work and would you consider coming and trying it out? Again, it was I will, you know, without screaming and cheering! Yeah, so I went straight in this education editor position pretty much setting up this thing and because it wasn’t yet launched, it was kind of done on the quiet. So I couldn’t talk too much to anyone about what I was doing. I was sort of there as a staff writer writing for the magazine, which I was doing at the time. But also I had this great project bubbling up. I just remember the day that it was launched and we put it out there and did a sort of a PR campaign. It was thrilling because it was my baby, something that I was in charge of. And it was National Geographic, and it involved news content. And it involved writing, and involved education and children, which is something that I didn’t even know that I actually wanted to do. So I kind of brought everything together in this natural but unexpected way.  

Nick   

It was like a real sort of thing. I can see the Venn diagram written down in front of me. I can see writing, communicating, I can see education, I can see wildlife and where those three things intersect, a sweet spot. 

Kate   

I never imagined that that would happen. And I didn’t plan it. Although it was always something I hoped for. I went in with this very accepting outlook that some of this would be a passion and some of this would be a career and that’s where I say it become a lifestyle because everything is just blended.  

Nick   

A lot of what you do, then you could sort of classify as communications, whether it’s writing or vlogging, even the video stuff and various other things you’ve been involved with that you just described. How important do you think is communicating in conservation? Can communications and the sorts of roles that you do and have done make a real difference for wildlife conservation around the globe? 

Kate   

I think we’re seeing an understanding of that more than ever, but I think it does. I will always so greatly admire people working in the field and the scientists who are scrambling through swamps and forests in Borneo and all these amazing, exciting things, swimming to the depths of the ocean. But I also knew that that was not quite going to be on the cards for me. I have a few physical health impairments, but it’s almost like that dream of being an astronaut. When people realise actually, I’m not medically fit to do this. So I realised certain things were not on the cards for me. I’ve learned now that actually you can make such a great impact and probably do so much. You know you are in partnership with them now. You can do things that perhaps they can’t. I mean people are working on creating this amazing research and building these fantastic environments for animals and really preserving it. But if no one knows about it, no one’s going to fund it. No one’s going to care to put the money behind those projects. The public isn’t going to react to what needs to be happening if they don’t know about it. So I realised that although I might not ever get into that role of field, conservationists doing all this amazing explorative stuff that I can be a voice for those people and what they’re doing and the wildlife they’re working with. And I think that’s so important, because I say that’s how you get people in on it. That’s how you get people to care. You’re able to back it you get funding for projects. I mean, even Dr. Jane Goodall, who is obviously so respected and revered as scientists that she is, although she wasn’t accepted early on in her career as a scientist because of not having that academic background and perhaps being a woman and all the rest of it. She’s now utterly known and respected in the conservation world. But she is where she is because National Geographic backed her and told her story. And she had research. And that’s so important that the chimpanzees in Gumby became something that people knew and care about, because Jane Goodall’s work and writing and photography of her was being published in National Geographic. So it’s understanding that it’s a network, and that people are part of the same team. And it’s always collaboration. And being on either side of that collaboration is probably equally important and probably equally as exciting. 

Nick   

That is interesting you mentioned Jane Goodall. You talked about David Attenborough, too. You’ve met so many true conservation heroes, conservation greats, I mean, if anyone goes to your site, you’ll see the list of people that you’ve had selfies with and spoken to and interviewed on your podcast and all sorts. Who really stands out for you of the people that you’ve met, as in the conservation arena, who impresses you the most? 

Kate   

Everybody impresses me so much. I get to walk around just being inspired by everyone and that can be someone that everyone’s heard of like Dr. Jane Goodall, who was probably one of the most incredible life experiences sitting down and chatting with her. And that was special for me. And, you know, I totally indulged in that. But then there are also things that I think well, that’s going to make a huge impact. I mentioned sort of earlier, I spoke to Aiden Gallagher. At the time I spoke to him, he was 16 years old. 

Nick   

He’s like the youngest UN Goodwill Ambassador, is that right? 

Kate   

He became a UN Goodwill Ambassador at the age of 14. So, he had already been doing it for two years, and he was hosting the illegal wildlife trade conference, speaking and hosting it. And there were people that were speaking there at this conference like Prince William, you know, the Duke of Cambridge was up there, opening it and Aiden Gallagher, this 16 year old was introducing him and it was like wow, that’s seeing the future. 

 Nick   

And you think Greta Thunberg now as well. You know, talk about young conservation leader activists. Yeah. 

Kate   

So sometimes it can be the young people that really inspire me and really sometimes make me think I need to get my game face on because they know so much. I got to keep up. But you know, but then also, I really respect the wisdom of all the people that I’ve had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Jane Goodall, David Attenborough. And then there’s this kind of mid ground of people who are similar age to me, and I think this age group, I’m coming up to 30, I’ll be 30 this year. And I think people around my age, we can be a little bit of the forgotten few because I think when we were younger, everyone was very much respecting the older people and saying, well, they’re the ones that the wisdom and everything else. And we were sort of waiting, I think to get to about 30 and, and have our stripes and say, well, we’re here and now we’ve reached it. Everyone wants to talk to the young people. We missed our window and sometimes the stories people… 

Nick   

Damn your focus on nature! I’m joking… 

Kate   

I am a huge advocate for young people. I write the stories of young people in National Geographic Kids, you know, I’m very proud of what everyone is doing. But I do feel like there are stories in that sort of mid level that aren’t often told. And I love things like the Whitley awards, which just happened. Reward conservationists in the field and a lot of them are sort of in their 30s, 40s some of them late 20s. It is fantastic people who are just getting out there and doing it and telling some of those stories. Some of the best things that I’ve done and some of the most inspiring interviews because there are things, I did a fantastic interview with the Whitley award winner about Togo slippery frogs. It was this guy, Caleb, who had the most beautiful story about how he got into conservation through sadly the loss of his father and how that inspired him when he was a child to care about the loss of things. He learned and cared about species extinction because he equated it to losing his father and when you lose something, it doesn’t come back. And as a child, he wanted to bring back his father and he wanted to be that superhero that he obviously knew, as he got older could never happen. And then when he was in his 20s, and studying for his PhD, he decided to go down the route of studying frogs and had this interest in reptiles and amphibians. And he actually rediscovered a species called the Togo slippery frog, who had thought to be extinct for 40 years. And he discovered the first population of them in 40 years and was able to get them reclassified as no longer extinct. They’re there and obviously, they’re critically endangered, but he’s like the guardian of these frogs. And it was this beautiful kind of synergy between, he didn’t get to obviously do his childhood dream of bringing his father back, but he got to bring these frogs back. And like that to me, like I had goose bumps the whole way through that story. And he told me that he’d also discovered during his research a brand new species of frog and he named it after his mother because she’d raised him alone and in respect to her. When I get these stories like that, although like the big names are fantastic and impressive, there are some people that we don’t necessarily hear their stories, who have some of the greatest life experiences yet to be shared. And I think that’s the joy in doing blogging. What I do is to try and find those stories too and try and get the heart and the soul of those stories and communicate that with people because I think that’s what can be, you know, your unique side as a blogger or a writer or a journalist is chasing the things that people maybe aren’t seeing and putting that out there. 

Nick   

It’s really into like listening to you can just sort of hear the passion kind of bursting out of you for what you do and for conservation as well and for the environment. And just to bring the interview, I guess, towards the close, really, we asked people some fairly big questions at the end just to kind of try and figure out how you think and how you feel and that sort of stuff. An interesting question I like to ask you actually is, if you could make like a single change that can make a really big difference for wildlife around the globe. If I could make you global Tsar for the day and you’ve clicked your fingers and this thing, this law, this decree, whatever you want to call it came into being what would you like to see change in the world? What would you like to enact? 

Kate   

I would like to see people understanding and engaging with the preciousness of the environment. I think the natural world when left alone is very self sufficient and it manages and it evolves and it creates new ways of being. But I think it is people that we need to have on board and its people to change. And I think if people especially now and as we say, we’re talking in the midst of this COVID-19 outbreak, if people could understand the preciousness and how fragile and delicate the strings of the world are, and if you pluck one of them, and everything can change, if people could really understand that and put that level of respect and vulnerability into understanding that life is like that, not just when we’re worrying about a disease that affects us, but also when gorillas that are potentially going to catch Ebola or the things that are happening as a result of climate change. You know, if there was understanding that everything is in this delicate balance. If I could get people I would change people to know that and to understand that in ways that I think unfortunately isn’t mainstream educated enough.  

Nick   

It is interesting like it becomes a communications challenge and it makes me reflect a little bit about I think it was Attenborough, it has to be Attenborough said something on the lines of people aren’t going to conserve what they don’t love and they’re not going to love when they don’t understand. So it kind of formed from that foundation really. Yeah which is what you’re all about. So yeah I sort of applaud you for that. It’s been really nice talking to you, getting to know you a little bit finally meeting semi face to face via Skype. But it’s as good as we’re going to get right now. If people want to find out a little bit more about you, follow your blog, follow you on social media where should we point them? 

Kate 

My blog is kateonconservation.com and I think off of there, providing I’ve done my job correctly, people should be able to find me on all the different social media outlets from there. 

Nick 

We will do that. I will provide links and everything. Lovely to chat. Thank you so much. Stay well stay safe. Keep in touch.  

Okay, well I hope you enjoyed that everyone. If you did, then please do hit that subscribe button to get notified when new episodes are live and also give us a ratings it really helps us to get in front of more people. If you enjoy the interviews, we’ve collected the best advice from over 400 professional conservationists into a free ebook, which you can download from the bottom of our website. And finally, if you’ve got any questions or suggestions for the podcast, please tweet them to @ConservCareers. We’d love to hear from you. Okay, till next time guys, this is Nick signing out. 

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