As Senior Curator of Natural Sciences at the Horniman, Emma focuses on the curation, documentation, and research of the Palaeontology, Geology and Osteology Collections.
In addition, Emma provides subject specialist expertise to support other departments at the Museum such as Exhibitions, Digital, Schools and Family Learning, and the Object in Focus loans project. Her role also involves giving tours, talks, demonstrations and hands-on sessions for the Horniman's diverse public outreach programme that includes family activities, school clubs, members’ events, and Museum Lates for adults.
Notable achievements at the Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Nature and Love Project – Specialist knowledge and curatorial input. A National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, awarded in January 2022, allowed the Nature and Love team to begin development on this exciting three-part project, to include; Redisplayed Natural History Gallery; Nature Explorers Adventure Zone; and Sustainable Gardening Zone.
- Scientific Advisor for the 2019 content overhaul of the Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs temporary exhibition.
- Co-wrote the exhibit panels with Deputy Aquarium Curator Michelle Calvert for the Beat Plastic Pollution temporary exhibition, Winner of the Museums and Heritage Award - Limited Budget Project of the Year 2020.
- Documentation and curation of the Bennett Collection, comprising ca.175,000 fossil specimens.
- Established four separate exhibits to go on loan as part of the Object in Focus programme: Sawfish; Ammonites; Rocks and Minerals; and Climate Change.
- Internal committees: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group; Environment Champions Club; Climate and Ecology Action Group; and Staff Council.
Research interestsEmma’s academic background is in vertebrate palaeontology. She has an MSci, an MSc and a PhD covering specific areas of research into fossil crocodilians, elasmobranchs (sharks and rays), and dinosaurs. In 2021, Emma was on the excavation team for the widely reported ‘largest near-complete skeleton of an ichthyosaur ever found in Britain’. She continues to be part of the research team of specialist palaeontologists and geologists, working on the material. She is also currently working on the marine reptile material held at the Horniman. Outside of the Horniman, Emma is heavily involved in the geological curation community and museum sector. She is particularly interested in furthering our understanding of collections management best practice with regard to fossil material. Specifically, how museums and institutions with limited money and/or resources can identify and obtain their best possible scenario.
External positions in learned societiesEmma is Vice President and Trustee of the Geological Curators Group, a Fellow of the Geological Society of London, and on the Marine Reptile Conference, Symposium on Palaeontological Preparation and Conservation, and London Geodiversity Partnership committees. Emma is also a member of the European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontology, the Palaeontological Association, the Paleontological Society, the Palaeontographical Society, and the Natural Sciences Collections Association.
External presentations (most recent)
- Times Radio interview on the Rutland ichthyosaur excavation
- LBC Radio interview on the Rutland ichthyosaur excavation
- Andrew Pierce Show on the Rutland ichthyosaur excavation
- Assessment and Conservation of Geological Specimens for Travelling Exhibition; SPPC
- Rocks, Minerals and Mysteries!. Arts Network; Object in Focus Exhibition talk
- The Amazing World of Ammonites. Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance; Object in Focus Exhibition talk
- On the Use of Specimen Bags for Long-Term Storage of Geological Collections, co-authored with Charlotte Ridley; SPPC
- Care and Use of Geological Collections, invited to deliver training presentation; NatSCA workshop
- You’re Extremely Accommodating… for a Curator (a look at the logistics and benefits of making collections available for research); GCG
- Enigmatic Ichthyosaurs of the ‘Lost’ Bennett Collection; SVPCA
- Bennett’s Archosaurs from Sites of Recognised Importance; SVPCA
- Making the Most of What You’ve Got (collections management on a limited budget); NatSCA
- Predictions for Apex Predator Responses to Eustatic Sea Level Rise, Based on the Fossil Record; The Royal Society - How Much can the Fossil Record Actually Inform Conservation?
Publications (most recent)
- Ichthyosaurs and the Rutland Discovery. Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Dr Emma Nicholls helps to uncover ‘Rutland Sea Dragon'. Co-authored with Connie Churcher. Horniman Museum and Gardens
- The Sorcery of Palaeontology and an Exploration of Ammonites. Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Reptiles, Representation and the Role of Hollywood Royalty. Horniman Museum and Gardens
- A Journey of Inspiration and the Discovery of an Icon. Geological Curators Group
- Feathered Dinos and Evolutionary Dead-Ends. Horniman Museum and Gardens
- What are the Permian Monsters? Co-authored with Shuk Kwan Liu. Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Making the Most of What You’ve Got. Natural Sciences Collections Association
- Dinosaur Croutons and Feathered Pterosaurs. Geological Curators Group
- Up Inside Historic Dinosaurs. Geological Curators Group
- Dinosaurs Driving you Wild. Geological Curators Group
- A Year of Coraling and Coralling. Natural Sciences Collections Association
- Sharks, Dinosaurs, and Walruses - An Interview with Dr Emma Nicholls. Geological Curators Group
- Rocks of Death and Fizzing Fossil Fish. Natural Sciences Collections Association
- Paradise, Problems, Perpetrators and Positives. Natural Sciences Collections Association
- Making the Most of a Move. Natural Sciences Collections Association