Asha de Vos

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Asha de Vos
ආශා ඩි වොස්
Asha de Vos.jpg
Asha de Vos at TEDx Monterey 2013
Born1979 (age 42–43)
Sri Lanka
Alma materUniversity of St. Andrews, University of Oxford, University of Western Australia
Known forThe Blue Whale Project
AwardsTED Fellow
Women of Discovery Award
BBC 100 Women
2020 Sea Hero of the Year
Scientific career
FieldsMarine biology

Asha de Vos (Sinhala:ආශා ඩි වොස් (born 1979) is a Sri Lankan marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of blue whale research within the northern Indian Ocean.[1] She is known for her Blue Whale Project. She is a Senior TED Fellow[2] and was chosen for a BBC 100 Women award in 2018.[3][4] She is a National Geographic 2016 Emerging Explorer Grantee.[5]

Life and career[edit]

De Vos was born in 1979 in Sri Lanka.[1] When she was six-years-old her parents would bring her second-hand National Geographic magazines. She would look through the pages and "imagine that that would be me one day – going places where no-one else would ever go and seeing things no-one else would ever see", inspiring her to dream of being an "adventure-scientist".[6][7]

De Vos's primary education was at Ladies’ College, Colombo and after completing her primary education followed by the Colombo International School, she moved to Scotland for her undergraduate studies in marine and environmental biology at the University of St. Andrews. She went on to gain her masters in integrative bio-sciences at the University of Oxford and a PhD from the University of Western Australia.[8][9]

De Vos is the first and only Sri Lankan to gain a PhD in marine mammal research.[10]

De Vos had served as a senior programme officer in the marine and coastal unit of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. She founded the Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project in 2008, which forms the first long-term study on blue whales within the northern Indian Ocean. She discovered through her research that an unrecognized unique population of blue whales, previously thought to migrate every year, stayed in waters near Sri Lanka year round.[11][7]

Due to de Vos's research, the International Whaling Commission has designated Sri Lankan blue whales as a species in urgent need of conservation research and has started collaborating with the Sri Lankan government on whale ship-strikes.

De Vos is an invited member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Cetacean Specialist Group. She was a post-doctoral scholar at the University of California Santa Cruz and a guest blogger for National Geographic.[12][13]

She is the founder and director of the non-profit Oceanswell, Sri Lanka's first marine conservation research and education organization.[6]

De Vos believes that the health and future of coastlines depends on local people. She argues that "parachute science", the practice of Western scientists collecting data in developing countries and then leaving without training or investing in the locals or region, is unsustainable and cripples conservation efforts.[14]

De Vos has also stated that women should define themselves by their capacity and not let their gender limit their potential.[15][16][17][18]

De Vos is a TED Senior Fellow, a Duke University Global Fellow in Marine Conservation and has been selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

In 2013, she received the President's Award for Scientific Publications.[19]

In 2015, she was a Marine Conservation Action Fund Fellow and in 2016 she became a Pew Marine Fellow.[20][21]

In 2018, she received the WINGS WorldQuest Women of Discovery Sea Award.[22]

On 26 May 2018, she was awarded the Golden alumni award in the Professional Achievement category at the first edition of the British Council Golden Alumni awards.[23] Later in the year she joined the BBC 100 Women list.[24][3]

On 27 March 2019, de Vos was celebrated as one 12 Women Changemakers by the Sri Lanka parliament.[25][26]

In 2020, de Vos was named Sea Hero of the Year by Scuba Diving magazine.[27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "These 20 women were trailblazing explorers—why did history forget them?". Magazine. 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2020-06-05.
  2. ^ UK. "Asha De Vos". The Global Teacher Prize. Archived from the original on 2017-06-28. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  3. ^ a b "BBC 100 Women 2018: Who is on the list?". BBC News. 2018-11-19. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  4. ^ "ආශා ඩි වොස්: ඔක්ස්ෆර්ඩ් විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයේ විශිෂ්ටත්වයට පාත්‍ර වූ ලාංකික කතගෙන් උගත හැකි පාඩම්". BBC News සිංහල (in Sinhala). Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  5. ^ "Asha de Vos - National Geographic Society". National Geographic Society.
  6. ^ a b Wight, Andrew. "What's It Like To Be Sri Lanka's First Whale Biologist?". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  7. ^ a b "සමුද්‍ර ක්ෂීරපායී පර්යේෂකයින් අතරින් ආචාර්ය උපාධියක් ලබා ගත් පළමු සහ එකම ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයා". 2020-11-15. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  8. ^ "Asha de Vos, Marine Biologist and Ocean Educator, Information, Facts, News, Photos". National Geographic. Archived from the original on May 17, 2016. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  9. ^ "පාසලේදී පසුගාමී වුව ද ලෝකයේ ම විශිෂ්ටත්වයට පත් ශ්‍රී ලාංකික කත". BBC News සිංහල (in Sinhala). Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  10. ^ "Blue whales in a changing world: Wildlife and Nature Protection Society Monthly Lecture – March 2017". The Island. March 11, 2017. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  11. ^ "Leading the Way: Meet the Next Generation of Explorers". Magazine. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2020-06-07.
  12. ^ "Ocean of opportunities for this young woman of the sea". 2016-07-31. Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  13. ^ "Together they traverse the deep blue sea". Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  14. ^ "Sri Lankan Whale Researcher Calls for an End to 'Parachute Science'". Oceans. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  15. ^ "Let capacity not gender define you: Asha de Vos | Daily FT". Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  16. ^ "We asked women around the world these 6 provocative questions". Culture. 2019-10-15. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  17. ^ "These 20 women were trailblazing explorers—why did history forget them?". Magazine. 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  18. ^ "Women in Oceanography Still Navigate Rough Seas". Eos. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  19. ^ "Life Online - Asha De Vos". Retrieved 2017-04-06.
  20. ^ "Marine Conservation Action Fund (MCAF)". Center For Ocean Life. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  21. ^ "Asha de Vos". Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  22. ^ Kumara, Sisira (January 14, 2018). "Sri Lanka's Ocean Girl Asha de Vos Wins the Women of Discovery Sea Award for 2018". The Sri Lankan Scientist. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  23. ^ "Marine biologist from Sri Lanka wins award in British Council's first ever Global Alumni awards". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  24. ^ "ලෝකයේ දැනට සිටින බලසම්පන්නම කාන්තාවන් 100 දෙනාගේ අපුරු තොරතුරු මෙන්න". Aruna. 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  25. ^ "Celebrating Sri Lankan Women Changemakers". Parliament of Sri Lanka. 2020-06-04.
  26. ^ "ශ්‍රී ලංකා සාගර ජීව විද්‍යාඥවරියක් බ්‍රිතාන්‍ය කවුන්සිලයේදී සම්මානයෙන් පුද ලබයි". Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  27. ^ Emmons 2020-12-01T08:00:00-05:00, Mary Frances. "Asha de Vos Named 2020 Sea Hero of the Year". Scuba Diving. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  28. ^ "Asha de Vos named 2020 Sea Hero of the Year". Lanka Sara. 2020-12-02. Retrieved 2020-12-02.

External links[edit]