Asha de Vos 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. Dr. de Vos founded Oceanswell, Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education non-profit. “The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project,” which commenced in 2008, is the first long-term study on blue whales in this region and is Oceanswell’s flagship project. The research de Vos conducted through this project has led to many key research publications and is used to inform policy at the local and global level. She spent many years in academia with degrees from the University of St. Andrews, University of Oxford and the University of Western Australia. She is the first and only Sri Lankan to have a Ph.D. in Marine Mammal research, the first Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation from Sri Lanka, and also the first National Geographic Emerging Explorer from this small island nation. She is also 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.


Born: 1976

Hometown: Sri Lanka

Education: Ph.D. in Marine Mammal research

Occupation: Marine biologist

Expeditions: Blue whale research in the North Indian Ocean

Best Discovery: That an unrecognized unique blue whale population, previously thought to migrate annually, stayed near Sri Lankan waters year round; coined the term, “The Unorthodox Whale”

Achievements: Founded Oceanswell, Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education organization; established the 1st long-term study on blue whales of the Northern Indian Ocean


Advice: If we want to save our oceans, every coastline needs a LOCAL hero… someone who is invested in the long-term.

*answers courtesy of National Geographic Interview