Dr. Asha de Vos

In conversation with Ashwini Vethakan


Born in


Alma mater

Ladies’ College

Family members

My father (Ashley), mother (Fatma) and brother (Ashvin)

Wanted to be

An adventurous scientist


A marine biologist


My mother’s Suzuki Swift

Moments you would like to go back to

I tend to be a person who looks forward and tries not to go back in time; I believe everything that’s happened so far has made me the person I am today so it’s all about looking forward

Best advice received

Do what you love and you will do it well


Happy place

The ocean

Likes to play

Sports – I run, swim and cycle

Likes to watch

Comedies, true stories and foreign films

Saddened when

People overlook the voiceless 

Most unforgettable event

Seeing bioluminescence in the shape of dolphins while I was in the middle of the ocean

Success to you is

Living your best life so that others can live theirs

Purpose in life

To leave the planet a better place than I found it and nurture an ocean hero on every coastline

Three languages you’d like to learn

Spanish and Chinese (because I think it will be useful) – and I’d also like to be better at Kutchi because it is my mum’s native language and I don’t speak it very well yet

Items on the bucket list for the next six months

Go on an ocean adventure, finish my children’s book, and get through this period being healthy and happy!

Items on the bucket list following retirement

I don’t really have post-retirement plans because I want to keep doing what I do until I die


Mantra to unwind

List all the things I’m grateful for 

Most hated chore

Ironing – I hate it!

Impressed by

Kindness, passion and a desire to make a positive impact on the world


Reading, drawing and nature photography

Something new that you tried this year

Saying ‘no’

Pet peeves

Rude people, misinformation and fake news, and people who don’t have any regard for the environment

Unlikely food combination

Avocado, peanut butter and banana on a slice of toast

Workout preferences

I run, swim and cycle – they’re my top three choices

Three must-haves

My watch, a notebook and something to read

The desired qualities you look for in a friend

Empathy, the ability to listen and a good sense of humour

One thing you would change about yourself

Nothing – I am happy with who and how I am. I think I was made this way for a purpose and can only fulfil that because of who I am


Day of the week

Wednesday – because it’s in the middle of the week so you’re halfway there!




Sri Lankan food and cake!


Gin and tonic

TV show

The Morning Show


The Bare Necessities (from The Jungle Book)

Chill out spots

Anywhere my friends and family are

Favourite activist

Gampaha Division Forest Officer Devani Jayathilaka of the Forest Department Sri Lanka – the state official who fought for our mangroves

Places to eat 

I love Cafe on the 5th (it’s one of my favourites) and Noodles


Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep


Eddie Vedder and Nina Simone


The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction (by David Quammen)


Nike, Aritzia, Patagonia and Speedo

Obsessed with

I want to drive positive change and make sure my life is useful to more than only myself

Likely retirement destination

I’d like to be on a yacht in the middle of the ocean


The first thing you need after waking up

To look out the window and see the sky

The first thing you notice when meeting someone

His or her smile

Recently laughed out loud when

Watching an episode of The Office

Last gift to someone

A Lego set for my nephew

You know it’s going to be a bad day when

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep the night before

You love the ocean because

It keeps us alive and is home to a magical kingdom

A new technology that will transform the future

I would like for something to be created that would make humans more empathetic towards nature

Children are

A gift

Sri Lanka in a few words

Stunning and filled with potential – and it’s home

Your least favourite month in 2020


Your New Year resolution

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions


Most productive in the morning, noon or night


A leader or follower by nature


Cook or foodie


Quality or quantity


The glass is half full or half empty      

Half full

Work or play after retirement

My life is a combination of both – and I don’t believe in retirement

The most delightful word you can think of


Your most used word or phrases

I love whale p**p!

Role models

My parents – I am who I am today because of them and due to being inspired by how they live their lives

Yourself in a few words

Adventurous and passionate with a desire to leave the planet a better place than I found it