I want more people to fall in love with the ocean… My goal in life is for everyone to be talking about the ocean at least once a day. We should be gossiping about the ocean!
Blue whales are known to migrate thousands of kilometres between their breeding and feeding grounds. But after founding the Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project in 2008, acclaimed marine biologist Asha de Vos discovered that there was a resident blue whale population in the waters near Sri Lanka all year round.
In this podcast, hear what she has learnt about blue whales and why conservation projects in the developing world should invest in local scientific talent and infrastructure.
To delve deeper, read Asha’s article The Problem with Colonial Science.
This podcast is hosted by Cat Vendl from UNSW Sydney, presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and is supported by Inspiring Australia as a part of National Science Week.
Photo credit: Spencer Lowell, WIRED UK.
Dr Asha de Vos is an internationally acclaimed Sri Lankan marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of long-term blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean. She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Oceans Institute of the University of Western Australia. She has degrees from the University of St. Andrews, University of Oxford and the University of Western Australia, but escaped academia to establish her own Sri Lankan grown non-profit, Oceanswell – Sri Lanka’s first marine conservation research and education organisation.
Her work has been showcased internationally by the BBC, The New York Times, TED and National Geographic to name a few. Asha is the first and only Sri Lankan to have a PhD in Marine Mammal research, the first Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and first National Geographic Explorer from Sri Lanka, and the first Sri Lankan woman to have her portrait hung at Oxford University. In 2019 Asha was named one of 12 Women Changemakers by the Parliament of Sri Lanka and won the inspirational icon awards at the 21st century icon awards in London.
In 2020, she was named a HCL Technologies Global Goodwill Champion at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, was awarded a Maxwell-Hanrahan Award in Field Biology and named a Scubadiving magazine and Seiko watches of America Sea Hero for November 2020. In 2021 Asha was awarded a Vanithaabimani lifetime achievement award for her outstanding achievements in her field and for bringing pride to her island nation. Follow Asha on Twitter: @ashadevos
Cat Vendl is a wildlife health researcher and science communicator in the Inter-Disciplinary Ecology and Evolution Lab at the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre in the School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Science at UNSW Sydney. In April 2020 she completed her PhD in the Mammal Lab at UNSW, where she investigated the respiratory microbiome of whales and dolphins and its potential use as an indicator for individual and population health. Cat also co-hosts The Boiling Point, a weekly science radio show and podcast, where she discusses fascinating findings in biology, astronomy, psychology, and interviews researchers about their work. Follow Cat on Twitter: @ScienceCath