Dr. Asha De Vos, the first Sri Lankan to have her portrait hung at Oxford’s Lincoln College

In the world, there are many people who have become greatest by doing extraordinary and outstanding deeds. This is a story of such a great personality from our mother nation.

“One of the key things that’s helped me keep pushing and working and taking on challenges is my ability to laugh at myself.”

Are you curious to know whose words are these? She is none other than Dr. Asha de Vos.

A marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean, Dr. Asha de Vos has brought another glory to Sri Lanka. Her latest achievement is she became the first Sri Lankan woman to have her portrait hung at Oxford’s Lincoln College 15th Century Hall.

Celebrating 40 years of admitting women into Lincoln College Oxford, the university put up portraits of 20 female alumnae in its 15th Century Hall. Our iron woman, Asha de Vos is one of the chosen 20 out of the many outstanding women who have been a part of the institution for over 4 decades. Moreover she is the first Sri Lankan woman to have her portrait anywhere in the University, as mentioned on her Facebook post.

Asha’s primary education was at Ladies’ College, Colombo and after completing her primary education, she moved to Scotland for her undergraduate studies in marine and environmental biology at the University of St. Andrews.

Next she went on to gain her masters in integrative bio-sciences at the University of Oxford. And she got her PhD from the University of Western Australia. 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 Explorer from her mother nation.

Then she established her own nonprofit organization, Oceanswell ( As Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education organization, Oceanswell is home to the well-known Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project, the first long-term study on blue whales in the region.

Asha’s work has led to many key research publications that are used to inform policy at the local and global level. Her work has also been showcased internationally by Channel 7 Australia, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, WIRED UK, the New Scientist, TED, Grist, GOOD, Nature and National Geographic.

Asha 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.

She was awarded with numerous awards in her life so far. In 2018 Asha was recognized with a prestigious WINGS WorldQuest Woman of Discovery at Sea award. She was a global winner for the UK Alumni Awards in the Professional Achievement category that recognizes alumni whose work has created change in their chosen profession and she got ‘A Woman in Management Inspirational Woman of the Year Award’. Also she was awarded with an Ada Derana Sri Lankan of the Year Emerging Global Scientist Award. Asha was named one of Asia’s sustainability superwomen and listed on the BBC’s 100 Women 2018 list of most inspiring and influential women from around the world and named Lanka Monthly Digest’s Sri Lankan of the Year. In 2019, Asha was named one of 12 Women Changemakers by the Parliament of Sri Lanka.

Asha is one of the most inspirational women of our time. Her work aims to change the current marine conservation model, protect this unique population of blue whales and inspire the next generation of diverse ocean heroes.

As the official media club of University of Peradeniya, perabeats, we are so honored to bring the life story of such a great person.

Article by – M.N.F Hilma.

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