Climate Resilience Manager Katharina Schätz

“I am letting my questions guide me”

How can quality of life in cities be maintained despite increasingly extreme climatic events? This question is what drives Katharina Schätz since her studies in Landscaping at TUM. As Regensburg’s Climate Resilience Manager she is set on finding answers.

Regensburg is visibly proud of its new Climate Resilience Manager. During a press conference specifically called up for this purpose, the third major Jürgen Huber introduced Katharina Schätz to interested members of the public in November 2018. “I was truly surprised by the turn-out”, the 30-year-old later recounts. Yet, this shows how important her new task is to the people. As a Climate Resilience Manager – Regensburg is the first city to choose this title, other cities use Climate Adaptation Manager – Katharina Schätz’s job is to prepare the city on the river Danube for the effects of climate change. A pressing and complex task, especially in light of the extreme weather patterns of 2018.

A feeling of doing pioneer work

It is precisely this challenge that intrigues Katharina Schätz. “This is the position I dreamed of”, she tells us. “Because here I am able to do what I have always enjoyed most: finding the answers to questions that have not been, or not sufficiently been answered yet. This is what has been motivating me since school.”

Now Katharina Schätz has to come up with a strategy on how the city of Regensburg can best protect itself from the effects of climate change, such as torrential rains or extreme heat. “To me it feels like I could do pioneer work here. There are no readymade templates and it is up to me to move things into the right direction”, the young woman says. The complexity of the task – starting with every city being different, and up to the fact that a multitude of players have to be considered and incorporated – does not daunt her.

If good communication between all parties involved can be achieved, the foundation for change is there.

This work is highly interdisciplinary and, above all, requires her mediation skills, says Katharina Schätz. She is aware that “developing a strategy and forcing it onto somebody is not going to work”. Because: the best strategy is useless if it does not include everybody involved. “Good communication is key. I have to include and incorporate the various offices, experts and, most importantly, the population. If this works out, the foundation for change is there.” The first weeks in her new position put her in a positive mood: “I feel that there is tremendous awareness for the issue. Since 2018 everybody knows that something has to be done.”

Studying at TUM prepared her well

Katharina Schätz is able to extensively draw from her landscaping and architecture degree at TUM in Freising. “The contents of the programme were highly diverse. I am able to draw from many things and have numerous points of reference”, she tells us. Thus, the fact that there was a subject such as hydraulic engineering, today helps her in dealing with the Civil Engineering Office. “I have gained a lot from the broad spectrum of disciplines I got introduced to in my degree programme”, says Schätz. And also her mentor Dr. Herbert Hoffmann remains to be a pillar of support to her. “Exchanging ideas with him helps me a lot. And he has always supported me in finding my way.”

Katharina Schätz with her mentor Dr. Herbert Hoffmann (degree in Brewing and Beverage Technology in 1972, doctorate in 1975) during their mentoring year of 2013/14.

Katharina Schätz with her mentor Dr. Herbert Hoffmann (degree in Brewing and Beverage Technology in 1972, doctorate in 1975) during their mentoring year of 2013/14 (photo: Magdalena Jooß/TUM).

According to Katharina Schätz it was not necessarily predictable that this way was going to move in the current direction. “Back then I more or less just picked a niche topic, simply because that was what I was interested in. That my personal interest would become of social relevance to such an extend was not apparent at that time. With the decision to specialize in urban climate I have chosen an unusual, yet for me coherent, path.” Here, she does not shy away from “doing something that is still untested.” In 2010 for example, Katharina Schätz tried to generate more knowledge on the topic through simulating micro-climates. “Initially, several people advised me against doing that – it was too complicated and may not work… I did it anyway and toughed it out. Because it was necessary and I was personally interested in it.”

The young woman considers it a stroke of luck that she followed her passion and never stopped looking for answers to previously unanswered questions. For today she knows: “I was brave and this courage has payed off.”