asha de vos

Asha de Vos, Ph.D.

2015 MCAF Fellow

Founding Executive Director, Oceanswell
Sri Lanka


Asha is a Sri Lankan marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean. She calls the population of blue whales in Sri Lankan waters ‘the Unorthodox Whales’ because through many years of research, her work has shown that they are simply different. Asha has degrees from the University of St. Andrews, University of Oxford and the University of Western Australia but escaped academia to establish Oceanswell, Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education nonprofit. ‘The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project’, commenced in 2008 is the first long term study on blue whales in this region and is Oceanswell’s flagship project. The research conducted through this project has led to many key research publications and is used to inform policy at the local and global level.

Additionally, the work has been showcased internationally by Channel 7 Australia (2010), the BBC (2010), the New York Times (2012), CNN (2012), WIRED UK (2014), the New Scientist (2014), TED (2015), Grist (2015), GOOD (2016), National Geographic (2016) and Nature (2017). Most excitingly, Asha is the first and only Sri Lankan to have a PhD in Marine Mammal research, the first Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation from Sri Lanka and also the first National Geographic Emerging Explorer from my small island nation. Asha is a TED Senior fellow, an Ocean Conservation Fellow at the New England Aquarium, a Duke Global Fellow in Marine Conservation, and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. Her life’s work is to change the current marine conservation model, protect this unique population of blue whales and inspire the next generation of ocean heroes from all corners of the globe.


Marine Mammals, Conservation Leadership, Social Media, Public Speaking, Sri Lanka, Conservation in Developing Countries, Advocacy, and Education

MCAF Fellow Dr. Asha de Vos leads the effort to photo ID whale species such as Bryde’s, Omuras and pilot whales off the coast of Sri Lanka
MCAF Fellow Dr. Asha de Vos leads the effort to photo ID whale species such as Bryde’s, Omuras and pilot whales off the coast of Sri Lanka
  1. Select Publications

    de Vos, Asha, Cassandra E. Faux, James Marthick, Joanne Dickinson & Simon N. Jarman. 2018. New determination of prey and parasite species for Northern Indian Ocean blue whales. Frontiers in Marine Science 5(104).

    de Vos, Asha. 2017. First record of Omura’s whale, Balaenoptera omurai, in Sri Lankan waters. Marine Biodiversity Records 10(10).

    Redfern, Jessica V., Thomas J. Moore, Paul C. Fiedler, Asha de Vos, Robert L. Brownell Jr., Karin A. Forney, Elizabeth A. Becker & Lisa T. Ballance. 2017. Predicting cetacean distributions in data‐poor marine ecosystems. Diversity and Distributions 23(4). 394-408.


    de Vos, Asha, Robert L. Brownell Jr., Bernie Tershy & Donald Croll. 2016. Anthropogenic threats and conservation needs of blue whales, Balaenoptera musculus indica, around Sri Lanka. Journal of Marine Biology 2016.

    de Vos, Asha. 2016. 27 years: The longest longevity and residency record for northern Indian Ocean blue whales. Taprobanica 8(1). 21-23.

  2. News

  3. Awards and Fellowships

    2018 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award finalists
    2020 recognized as Global Goodwill Champions as part of HCL
    2016 President’s Award for Scientific Publication in Sri Lanka
    2018 LMD Sri Lankan of the Year award
    2018 BBC Top 100 Women
    2018 Wings WorldQuest Women of Discovery Sea Award
    2018 Golden alumni award, Professional Achievement category at first edition of the British Council Golden Alumni awards
    World Economic Forum Young Global Leader

    2016 PEW Marine Conservation Fellow
    2016 National Geographic Explorer
    2013 TED Senior Fellow
    Duke University Global Fellow

  4. Affiliations

  5. New England Aquarium News and Blogs