Gemma Smith


Research title: Shieling landscapes of North West Sutherland: people, place and ecology

Research Summary

I study place-names as a source for the ecological history of the far north-west of Scotland. My research interests include Gàidhlig, onomastics, environmental and landscape history, human-animal relations, human ecology, traditional ecological knowledge, indigenous studies, creative ethnology, decolonising methodologies, land reform, and community engagement. 

#HistoryTalksLive - Gemma Smith: The Place-names of Assynt:




The Handa-Maid's Tale: An Island Shieling (UHI Institute for Northern Studies St Magnus Conference 2021)

'No Masters, No Superiors': The Free State of Eddrachillis? (Economic and Social History Society of Scotland 'Who Owned Scotland?' Conference 2021)

Shieling Landscapes of Clachtoll and Stoer (Scottish Place-names Society Autumn Conference 2022) 


The Place-names of Assynt Invited talk for UHI Centre for History (History Talks Live series, January 2021)


Graduate Teaching Assistant on the GU course History 1A: Scotland's Millennium: Kingdom, Union and Nation c.1000-2014 (2022-23)

Discussion facilitator for the GU College of Arts extra-curricular Knowledge & Creativity course (2023)

Settlement Place-names of North West Sutherland - workshop for the North West Training Centre, Kinlochbervie (April 2021)

Place-names of Cape Wrath and Sandwood Bay - workshop for the North West Training Centre, Kinlochbervie (February 2022)

Additional Information

Convenor of Onomastication, the University of Glasgow onomastics reading group (September 2021-present)

Co-organiser (with Ryan Dziadowiec) of the Ecology and Land Reform PGR training event at The Shieling Project, Beauly (6-8th May 2022) - funded by Bòrd na Gàidhlig, the GU PGR Community Building & Public Engagement Fund, and the Centre for Scottish & Celtic Studies

Principal researcher for The Pilgrim's Trail, a UNESCO North West Highlands Geopark project investigating the spiritual heritage of the Scourie, Kinlochbervie and Durness Community Council areas (ongoing until July 2023) - outputs include a place-names gazetteer, primary sources review, three community talks and discussions, and the final project report. 

Member of the Scottish Place-names Society

Member of UHI CLAN, the Community Landownership Academic Network (co-head of the Gaelic sub-theme)

Member of the Scottish Crofting Federation