Public lecture at Dundee Contemporary Arts

In November 2018, Professor Elaine Shemilt gave a public lecture to a sold-out audience in the Main Gallery of Dundee Contemporary Arts. The lecture was titled The Artist as Environmentalist/Activist, and described Elaine’s work as an artist and researcher involving the environmental management of South Georgia. As an artist – rather than a scientist or a politician – Elaine perceives her role as raising the profile of this extraordinary place through visual means.
Elaine’s lecture began with a brief cultural history of South Georgia, including Dundee’s connection with the Antarctic, and went on to pay particular attention to the late 19th century research study undertaken by the scientist William Speirs Bruce and his assistant, the artist W.G. Burn Murdoch – who, in 1892, was arguably Antarctica’s first ‘artist in residence’. Elaine discussed how Burn Murdoch’s visual representation of Antarctica and its wildlife, depicted something that was otherwise far too unfamiliar and complicated to comprehend at the time. Elaine indicated how his paintings, watercolours and prints opened up, what was a previously unknown world, to the community back home. For Elaine however, what was most interesting about Burn Murdoch’s artwork, was how it also observed and visualised Bruce’s science – such as how whales followed their krill. Elaine argued that these pictures captured the public’s imagination in such a way that the public support enabled Spiers Bruce and other scientists to continue to make significant scientific advances.
Then, with reference to her own involvement with South Georgia, Elaine’s lecture described her own role as an artist, and in particular her interest in the relationship between art and the environment. As well as the printmaking, painting and sound works, this included descriptions of hanging out of the side of helicopters taking photographs. Elaine then discussed how she actively engages in the environmental management of the island, through the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s habitat restoration projects, and the rat eradication programme.
Elaine’s lecture concluded with an overview of CRE’s exciting projects to come, describing the living map, the data management system and the future exhibition and visualisation space we have planned for Grytviken. For Elaine, the aim is to entice people everywhere to learn about South Georgia, stating that ‘Humans began by exploiting South Georgia. Now we must work even harder to conserve the Island… Art offers a possible way of researching into these realms and building a bridge between nature and the human spirit.’

Professor Elaine Shemilt presents her lecture at Dundee Contemporary Arts

A visit to CERN

In November 2018, Dr. Gary McKay and Neil Caddick – a programming specialist working closely with CRE – attended the first Quantum Computing Conference at CERN’s main facility in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference came about following a discussion between Dr. McKay and Dr. Martin Gastal, the Program Head at CERN’s Pt. 5 Muon Collider. Speakers from IBM, Google, Microsoft, D-Wave and a host of university and national QC laboratories attended over two days, giving detailed descriptions of the current state of the art. CRE interest in the development of QC algorithms for advanced environmental analysis proved to be correct as the first ‘baby-steps’ towards the use of remote sensing (satellite) imagery and digital terrain elevation data (DTED) to perform extreme weather event modelling were seen.
Future work in the area of using quantum computing for analysis and new types of visualisation are underway at present as Dr. McKay and Mr. Caddick are participants in the Microsoft Quantum Computing Programming Research and Development Program. A research note on the current state of the quantum computing art has been written for internal discussion and review at the University of Dundee.