Jonathan lives in Mullagh, County Cavan, Ireland, where his family have an organic farm and forestry. Jonathan is cousin of the Irish Kildare-born Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. He is the family historian for the Irish Shackletons, whose ancestor founded a Quaker school in Ballitore, County Kildare, Ireland in 1726.
A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin in Natural Sciences (Botany and Zoology) Jonathan was Awarded his Masters Degree from Ohio State University for studying the flora—past and present—of Arctic Alaska.
After a career as a high school teacher, Jonathan headed south to Antarctica in the footsteps of his cousin. Twenty years and over forty trips later—and despite the cold—he finds it one of the most inspiring places he has visited on this planet. The combination of extraordinary natural beauty, incredible wildlife, and almost unbelievable tales of the early explorers keeps Jonathan returning to this special place.
Closer to home, he spends much of his spare time—when not working in his forestry—as a keen naturalist studying wildlife, recording and observing Ireland’s plants, butterflies, moths, birds, and mammals. This also combines with exploring our River Shannon in a 108-year-old wooden family boat. Offshore, he has visited many of Ireland’s islands—including the Saltees, the Aran Islands, Tory Island, and Rathlin Island. Further afield, he has visited Iceland to see the Whooper swans breeding—many of them overwinter near his home in Ireland. Last year, he visited the Outer Hebrides and, further out into the Atlantic, St. Kilda, a wonderful archipelago of islands rich in history and with some huge seabird colonies.
After dark, Jonathan indulges in a keen interest in his family history, corresponding with many relations all over the world. He has written a book about his polar cousin Sir Ernest Shackleton entitled Shackleton – An Irishman in Antarctica. He wrote the foreword to Jane W. Shackleton’s Ireland (2012), a book of photographs taken by his great-grandmother on her travels around Ireland between the 1880s and 1909.
Jonathan has given talks in many countries—from Tasmania to Canada, the United States, Britain, and Ireland—to schools, and at the Ernest Shackleton Autumn School, held every year in Athy, County Kildare. He has been interviewed on a number of television programs.
Jonathan is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a member of the James Caird Society (which commemorates Sir Ernest Shackleton), a member of the BAS Club (British Antarctic Survey), Birdwatch Ireland, and The Irish Inland Waterways Association.