Asha de Vos, Ph.D. - New England Aquarium
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Asha de Vos, Ph.D.

2015 Marine Conservation Action Fund (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.

Learn more about Oceanswell.


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

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



Marine Conservation Action Fund

Ensuring conservation leaders around the globe have the financial and professional resources to achieve key ocean conservation gains and the platform to amplify their work.