Grant Museum of Zoology
21 University Street
University College London
London WC1E 6DE
+44 (0)20 3108 2052
My childhood enthusiasm for natural history led me to study for a Zoology degree at Cambridge University. After graduating in 2003 I started my career in Science Communication at the hands-on science centre At-Bristol, running workshops in the Learning Department.
I joined the Grant Museum in 2004 as the Learning and Access Manager, using the Museum’s fabulous specimens to establish a Learning and Access Programme. My role there began with the task of developing the museum spaces and services to be accessible to non-academic audiences for the first time, including schools, families and adults, as well as strengthening our ties with UCL Departments.
As the Museum Manager I have strategic overview of our varied activities - developing the Museum as both a valuable academic resource and an excellent public venue, while caring for our collections responsibly. As well as a wide public events programme the collection is used in teaching almost daily. We are constantly developing new strategies to be a gateway for the University to engage with local communities, through co-curated exhibitions and research programmes.
I am heavily involved in UCL Museums' online engagement activities through our blogs and other social media platforms, and oversee the Department's marketing activities on and off-line.
Alongside public engagement with science, I am interested in evolutionary biology and particularly the natural history of Australia and its mammals. I spend all my spare time searching out wild plants and animals across Britain and the rest of the world, preferably on foot. I spend a good amount of time on zoological fieldwork in Australia, mainly working on projects involving mammal ecology for NGOs, universities or government departments. The blog reports from this fieldwork are here.
From 2009-10 I worked as the Head of Learning and Access for all of UCL Museums & Collections as maternity cover. It allowed me to explore object-based learning and museum learning in a broader context, and work more widely with various parts of the University. My role was to have a strategic overview of learning and access activities in the museums and collections, as well as marketing and audiences, and to coordinate public engagement programmes that work across different units in the Department.
- Natural Sciences (Zoology) MA, Cambridge
- Object-based learning
- Engaging non-specialists with science
- The ways in which people interpret natural history objects
- Australian mammal ecology and conservation
- Mammalian evolution
- Conservation education
- 2013: The Shape of Things: New and emerging technology-enabled models of participation through VGC: "QRator and the Grant Museum of Zoology".
- 2013: Digital Partnerships: Museums and Universities. "QRator and the Grant Museum of Zoology".
- 2012: Natural Sciences Collections Association Conference. Use it or Lose it. Conference Presentation "How Museums can Support Higher EducationEngaging Universities with Museums".
- 2012: Visitor Studies Group Conference. Audiences and Participation: What is the value of collaboration?. Conference Presentation. "QRator: Visitor engagement through social interpretation.
- 2011. University Museums in Scotland Conference. Universities and Museums: New Rules of Engagement?. Conference Presentation. "Ask not what your university can do for you... Displaying research and sharing museum experience".
- 2008. University Museums and Collections Conference. University Museums and the Community. Conference Presentation. "Beyond Teaching: Out of Hours at the Grant Museum".
- 2007. Real World Science Conference. Engaging Secondary Science Students in Museums. Conference Presentation. Zoology at A-Level: Recruiting the Scientists of the Future.
- 2007. Visitor Studies Group. Closing the Circle: Evaluation and Interpretation. Conference Presentation. "Data Collection at the Grant Museum".
- 2006. Museums Libraries and Archives Council. Understanding Audiences Training Presentation. Visitor Evaluation at the Grant Museum".
- Carnall, M., Ashby, J. & Ross, C. (2013): Natural history museums as provocateurs for dialogue and debate, Museum Management and Curatorship. Available here
- Ashby, J. 2012: How Museums can Support Higher Education: Engaging Universities with Museums. NatSCA News - The Journal of the Natural Sciences Collections Association: 23
- Hohnen, R., Ashby, J., Tuft, K., and McGregor, H. 2012: Individual identification of northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) using remote cameras. Australian Mammalogy (Available here)
- Ashby, J. 2011: Order from Chaos: The new Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London. NatSCA News - The Journal of the Natural Sciences Collections Association: 21
- West, C. & Ashby, J. 2011: How many animals are in the room? Creative Teaching & Learning: 2.1: 22-27
- Ashby, J. 2011: Science on the Wild Side. New Scientist: 2812 (Available here)
- MacDonald, S. & Ashby, J. 2011: Campus Treasures. Nature: 471, 164–165 (Available here)
- Ashby, J. & Wood, C. 2010: Lessons in Learning: Primary schools, universities and museums. UCL, London (Available here)
- Ashby, J. & Lanyon, E. 2010: Taking Partnership to Heart. GEM Case Studies: 4
- Ashby, J. 2009: Beyond teaching: Out of hours at the Grant Museum. Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the International Committee of ICOM for University Museums and Collections (UMAC) (Available here)
- Ashby, J. 2008: Myths and Monsters – the Animals of Legend. Rockwatch: 48
- Ashby, J. 2007: Giving the People What they Want. Meeting Zoology Collections with their Audiences: A Case Study. NatSCA News - The Journal of the Natural Sciences Collections Association: 11 (Available here)
- Ashby, J. 2007: Reaching families through museums in community libraries. GEM News: 107
- Ashby, J. 2007: Conservation and Extinction: Past, Present and Future. UCL Science: 21
- Ashby, J. 2006: Kingdom in a Cabinet: A Guide to the Animals of the Grant Museum. Grant Museum of Zoology Special Publications: London.
- 2012: BBC London (Live studio interview): Buried on Campus
- 2012: New Scientist (Interview): Art by Animals: Animals get Arty
- 2012: BBC London (Live studio interview): Art by Animals
- 2012: BBC News (Interview): Art by animals exhibition opens in London
- 2011: BBC London (Interview): Extinct animals at the Grant Museum
- 2011: ITV1 Alan Titchmarsh Show (Interview): Unsung museums
- 2011: New Scientist, Big Wide World (Blog): Drowning in a sea of misinformation
- 2011: New Scientist, Big Wide World (Blog): 20-word stories: The tale of an exhibition developer (available here)
- 2011: BBC 6Music (Interview): Exploring the Grant Museum
- 2011: New Scientist, Big Wide World (Blog): Wanted: An Expert on Alien Anatomy (available here)
- 2011: TimeOut (contributor): London's Best Museum Exhibits (available here)
- 2011: New Scientist, Big Wide World (Blog): Rock rats and pitfall traps: A Zoologist's holiday (available here)
- 2011: New Scientist, Big Wide World (Blog): Specimens and Schools: 9 to 5 at the Museum (available here)
- 2011: New Scientist, Culture Lab (Interview): Grant Museum reopens (available here)
- 2011: Guardian (Interview): Dodo find and Grant Museum reopening (available here)
- 2010: Five News (Interview): Baby gorilla born at London Zoo.
- 2009: Londonist. Series of articles on Grant Museum specimens (available here)
- 2009: Darwin and Natural History. Public Lecture at the Horniman Museum.
- 2009: British Council / Open University Programme: Darwin Now - Musing on evolution.
- 2008: South African Broadcasting Corporation News (Interview). Quagga extinction
- 2008: Die Burger (South African newspaper) (Interview): Quagga extinction
- 2008: Beeld (South African newspaper) (Interview): Quagga extinction
- 2008: Cheltenham Science Festival Debate: What's the Point of School?
- 2008: Museum Practice Letter: Dogmatic Interpretation
- 2008: Camden Gazette (Interview): Missing elephant in Camden
- 2006: LBC Radio (Interview): London Palaeontology
- 2005: Naked Scientist Radio (Interview): Forensic Zoology (available here).
- 2004: HTV West Television Programme Presenter: Science Shorts: Psychology Experiments
- 2012: Buried on Campus (Grant Museum of Zoology) A huge mass of human bones was discovered in UCL during construction work in 2010. This installation displays the investigations undertaken to discover what they are and why they were buried. Remains of at least 84 individual people and many animals have been identified. Uncover where they came from and what we can learn from them in this unusual exhibition co-curated by UCL forensic anatomists and osteologists Wendy Birch and Christine King.
- 2012: Art by Animals (Grant Museum of Zoology). Do animals make art? This exhibition includes paintings by apes and elephants and examines whether they are artistic works or just pointless lines on a page. Placing their handiwork alongside animal specimens and historical documentation we explore why some animal creations are considered valuable and creative, while others are dismissed as meaningless. Co-Curated by Michael Tuck and Will Tuck. Images, videos and more information can be found here.
- 2010: A Crucial Difference: Celebrating Diversity in Nature (UCL North Cloisters). In natural history there are no duplicates – every specimen is unique. For students and researchers at UCL, the existence of several examples of the same specimen type is crucial to the way their subjects are taught and studied. For a scientific theory to be tested many samples must be collected and analysed. It is only by understanding the variation within a group that its limits can be determined, and its relationships described. Exhibition website available here.
- 2007: Future Fossils by Mervine (Grant Museum of Zoology). How everyday objects like TV remote controls and Lego would look in millions of years if they were fossilised was the subject of this unique exhibition. Working with the artist Mervine, the exhibition ‘Future Fossils’ fused art with science to challenge the legacy of modern life that will be laid down in future fossil records – and raised questions about the state of the planet in an imaginative and thought-provoking way. Press release available here.
- Committee member of the Natural Sciences Collections Association
- Fellow of the Linnean Society of London
- Organising committee member of the Centre for the History of Evolutionary Studies
- Member of the Society for the History of Natural History
- Member of the Group for Education in Museums
- Member of the Hardy Orchid Society