Local woman on front lines in war on carbon

By MATT YORK/Montana State News

Kathryn Watson is one of the unsung heroes of our time and generation. She is currently the outreach and communications director of the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership project, a group funded, in part, by the United States Department of Energy.

The BSCSP is a group dedicated to the concept of geologic carbon capture and storage. The idea stems from ”capturing carbon dioxide from its point of release and permanently storing it in deep, underground rock formations, ” according to the BSCSP webpage.

Watson’s  job in the project is Outreach and Communications, and her job is really to ‘reach out’ to the community on a larger scale; not only to educate, but to bring to light and help understand what the project is about, whether it be teacher workshops such as educating science teachers in how the project works, or how to get the information necessary for their questions, to even teaching local decision makers and legislators on bills that could help the project, to help them understand the project and its connection to the environment.

Essentially her job is to bridge a gap between the community and outlying arms of that community, and the project itself. Her job is hardly limited to these briefings, and Watson herself states that the project has identified 14 different audiences, from the general public, to national and scientific audiences.

Watson’s path to the project began with her interest in the greater outdoors. As a child, she enjoyed playing with bugs and lakes and essentially loving nature. As she grew and went to college, her goals sent her into the field of science, where she jumped from a bachelor’s degree at Lafayette College, to a master’s in environmental management at Duke University in Durham, N.C., a connection that left her a bit on edge when her Blue Devils went up against Lehigh in the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament.

Her education enables her to bridge the gap between the technical aspects of the project, and the public. This is what eventually led her to be the outreach and education coordinator at Montana Watercourse at Montana State University.  This, of course, is what eventually catapulted Watson into the outreach and communications position at BSCSP.

The draw of BSCSP, according to Watson, was the fact the opportunity and project were “incredibly rare,” and ”elegant in design with real clear community benefits and scientific aspects, “ benefits that include a cleaner atmosphere with lower Co2 emissions, and a stable energy system. What’s more, the project lends to helping create jobs, and generally make the world a safer, cleaner  and better place to live in.

Watson is also impressed with a ”staff that cares about the community and success of the project,” showing that a dedication is there, with hopes to help keep the world better and green for generations to come.

When not saving the world from harmful greenhouse gases and helping the public to understand the importance of the project and its vital implications, Watson loves to run. This is a big one for her, she loves running, but really anything outdoors is an exciting adventure for her. Since moving to Montana, floating the rivers has become a decidedly fun activity—despite the crowded Madison at times. Most of this time is spent with her husband, whom she met before moving to Montana, and her two dogs.

Moving around a lot, Watson has lived in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Alabama and North Carolina. Eventually, her husband had always made it clear he was going to move back to Montana, and they did; a place she says finally felt like home. One of the reasons being she feels there’s a shared passion for the outdoors with many of the residents of Montana, and its great expansiveness.

The project aspect that is in Montana is called the Kevin Dome project (pronounced ”kee vin”), which is located due north of Great Falls, and west of Sunburst.

When asked what draw there was to the Kevin Dome project, Watson stated it was the interesting view on rocks’ reaction to Co2 exposure, and how they’ll react 50 million years into the future.

“What makes the Kevin Dome so unique, is that you can already view how rocks’ll react 50 million year into the future, because under the dome rocks have already been exposed to Co2 for 50 million years. This allows you to see how rocks have changed overtime, and next to newly exposed rocks that are being used for the injection of Co2, you can compare and contrast from beginning to end.”

With her two dogs, and husband, Watson has become a fixture in the state of Montana The BSCSP project is currently in phase 3, which is the actual application of the project, and will run until 2019.

Edited by Angie Ford.

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