Julia Steel is a PhD student in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure, and Society at Heriot-Watt University, based on the Orkney campus. Julia is a marine social scientist with a passion for addressing issues of inclusion in the pursuit of a sustainable ocean. She has a BSc in Ecological and Environmental Sciences (Hons) and a MSc in Marine Systems and Policies from The University of Edinburgh. During her MSc, she became cognizant of the importance of addressing issues relating to equality, diversity and inclusion in marine science and governance.
Through her involvement in the Friday Strikes for Climate in Edinburgh, Julia became acutely aware of the injustice against future generations who are unable to challenge decisions made by policy leaders today. Julia believes that young people not only have a social right to participate but that their engagement would result in new solutions to marine challenges by broadening the source of viewpoints and contributing to increased innovation. To achieve this, leaders need to provide clear and consistent strategies for young people to participate in decision-making. Julia is excited to delve into this area of research through her PhD and help raise the voices of youth in such an important time for ocean action.
As future custodians of the ocean, young people have the highest stakes in policy decisions made today. However, when it comes to participation in decision-making, youth are often overlooked. Young people face numerous obstacles to their engagement, including a lack of ocean literacy, power imbalances and inadequate feedback mechanisms, amongst others. Marine planning offers a unique opportunity to engage young people in decisions made about Scotland’s seas. However, as an emerging area of interest, research is needed to create a clear picture of what impactful youth engagement requires throughout the marine planning process. The Youth Voices for Nature project aims to do just that. It aims to explore innovative mechanisms to empower youth to take part in marine planning. The project will engage with youth groups and communities in Orkney, where a dynamic marine environment is at the forefront of renewable energy generation.