Degree completed in 2017.

Sacred forests and conservation on a landscape scale


Website: Personal website

Academic Profile

Ashley received her BA(Hons) from Dartmouth College (USA) in Environmental Studies with a minor in Environmental Public Policy. As an undergraduate she interned with the University of Port Elizabeth (South Africa) Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit and completed the Dartmouth College Africa Foreign Study Program. Her undergraduate honors thesis investigates the attitudes towards conservation of Zulu communities bordering Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Ashley worked in rural Guinea and the Gambia, West Africa as an agroforestry and biodiversity conservation extension agent in the United States Peace Corps from 2005 to 2007.

Ashley joined the School of Geography and the Environment in 2008 as an MSc student in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management. Her dissertation, "Do dragons prevent deforestation? Assessing the resilience of customarily conserved areas in Kiang West, the Gambia," employed remote sensing and social surveys to compare the vegetation cover of protected areas with forest patches conserved by a local belief in supernatural dragons over time. She graduated with distinction and expanded on her dissertation as an intern with the Environmental Change Institute. She commenced her DPhil in Geography and the Environment in 2009.

Current Research

As a member of the Oxford Biodiversity Institute, Ashley maps sacred natural sites around the world. Religious groups own 5-10% of global forests and influence much more, in addition to their investment in commercial forestry and consumption of wood and forest products. The initiative's sacred natural sites include, inter alia, Shinto shrine forests in Japan, Cambodian forests managed by Buddhist monks and Ethiopian Tewahedo church forests.

Ashley's doctoral research considers ecosystem services provided by culturally protected forests in the human-dominated land use matrix beyond protected areas. Her papers include case studies in Malaysian Borneo, Ethiopia, Japan and the Gambia.

Cave entrance guarded by local cave guardian at Mantanani Island, Sabah, Malaysia.

Cave entrance guarded by local cave guardian at Mantanani Island, Sabah, Malaysia.

Current Teaching

Ashley teaches postgraduates Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS); she instructs MSc workshops and options courses and tutors DPhil students from the departments of Plant Sciences and Zoology. She has instructed first-year geography undergraduates on the Paris Field Course and has led tutorials for undergraduates on extinction and wildlife trade. She has supervised undergraduate dissertations on co-management by the Department of Conservation and Maori of New Zealand and MSc dissertations on Ethiopian church forests and community/park management conflict in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.