Professor Elaine Shemilt is Vice Chair of South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), and secured the industry funding for the establishment of a University of Dundee Chair in Animal Conservation for Tony Martin in 2009, to lead the scientific work for the Habitat Restoration Project. She returned to the Island in February 2013 to assist with Phase 2 of the restoration project following the successful pilot phase in 2011.
The island of South Georgia is a unique place; it is one of nature's paradises and yet it is also rich with historical heritage. South Georgia is positioned in the Southern Ocean between the cold southern Antarctic waters and the warmer waters to the north. These contrasting influences contribute to the island’s exceptional natural beauty, creating a unique environment that supports an abundance of marine and terrestrial wildlife.
This same abundance attracted humans to South Georgia, which became a centre for the unsustainable sealing and whaling industries. The island was also the gateway to the Antarctic for heroes of polar exploration including Sir Ernest Shackleton. With its legacy of scientific research undertaken during the Discovery Investigations, its deserted whaling stations once home to communities of British and Norwegian whalers, and its pivotal role in the history of the Falklands war, South Georgia has a diverse, conflicting, and yet fascinating human heritage.
While sealing and whaling practices have now ceased, South Georgia continues to suffer from the long-term impact of human inhabitation – the ongoing devastation of South Georgia's bird population by the introduced Norway brown rat.
SGHT aims to work with all who wish to preserve the island's natural and historical heritage for future generations – to redress the damage to its environment done in the past, and to preserve the human heritage of the island which so clearly shows the best and worst of humanity. The groundbreaking SGHT Habitat Restoration Project will save native birds from extinction and increase by millions the numbers of endangered seabirds on South Georgia.