We have moved to www.ashadevos.com

The material on this site is the copyright of Asha de Vos. Photographs should not be used without the express permission of the photographer. For more information contact whalessrilanka@gmail.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013


SO much fun stuff going on at www.ashadevos.com including rolling out results from the last few years of research. Head over -- don't be shy!

Friday, August 9, 2013

We are moving!

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your support over the last few years...don't panic, I'm not closing shop! I'm just moving to www.ashadevos.com! The new blog is still under construction (but please make yourself at home, browse and enjoy!). I am hoping to have some guest bloggers come on board, and try a few new things -- so please keep following!

Thesis submission coming up very soon and I am very excited!! Then I have a fair bit of travel before I take up my new position at the University of California, Santa Cruz...I will continue to work with these incredibly unorthodox whales even through that appointment.

More to come..

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The end is nigh!

Hello Friends,

I want to apologise for neglecting my blog and, inadvertently, all of you, over the last few months. I am on the home straight with my thesis and will be submitting in the next few weeks. I am working really hard to produce great quality science to increase our knowledge about the wonderful blue whales in Sri Lankan waters. Once the results are published, you will be the first to know, so please don't lose heart - I promise you the wait will be totally worth it. Once I have that out of the way I will get back up to speed with my backlogged stories and marine thoughts. 

I also have to apologise for the fact that blogger has suddenly decided to kill all the images I had on my blog. It now looks a bit sad and neglected to say the least. The good news is that I am shifting my blog to a new platform very very soon......and I promise the pictures will be up there sooner rather than later. 

I want to leave you with a very short note on some recent science about blue whales and military sonar. No, it is not good news. Researchers in California have just published the results of the first direct measurements of any kind of baleen whale to mid-frequency sonar signals. They found that while not all the whales responded to the sounds, and definitely not all of them responded in the same way, whales were seen to respond in some conditions by modifying their behaviour and temporarily avoiding areas where sounds were produced. The real problem is that this behavioural modification could potentially cause them to alter diving behaviours and even avoid important feeding areas. No, not good news at all.....

CITATION: "Blue whales respond to simulated mid-frequency military sonar," Jeremy Goldbogen, Brandon Southall, et al. Proceedings of the Royal Academy B, July 3, 2013. DOI -10.1098/rspb.2013.0657

More soon and thank you for your patience!

Monday, June 3, 2013

No news is good news and fabulous sardine run

Dear Friends-of-the-Sri-Lankan-Blue-Whale-Project,

I am sorry for the long silence but I want to tell you that it will be worthwhile. At the moment I am working really hard to get my PhD thesis done after which I will excitedly share my findings with you all. For now, enjoy this video by Charles Maxwell, and send lots of good luck vibes for my thesis defence that takes place this Thursday June 6th 2013 at 4pm. If you are anywhere near by, please feel free to come along and find out about all the science I have been doing over the last 3.5 years. Its been an incredible journey thus far and its only just beginning. Thanks for standing by my side and cheering me on! Together we can!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bow riding killer whales off Mexico: CNN

Seems like the killer whales off Mexico have a penchant for bow-riding. Photos of bow-riding killer whales were captured twice last year in Loreto in Baja California (http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/post/killer-whales-put-on-rare-and-amazing-show-for-boaters-off-mexico/) and then yesterday CNN circulated this story about a couple celebrating their anniversary off La Paz Mexico who witnessed the same. Wow! Watch the video here: http://edition.cnn.com/video/?/video/us/2013/04/29/pkg-killer-whales-swim-alongside-boat.wfla#/video/us/2013/04/29/pkg-killer-whales-swim-alongside-boat.wfla

I had a quick look around and it seems there is a video of bow-riding killer whales from Canada back in 2006 too (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0biz6z_tFI). Rest assured, this is rare, but what a phenomenal experience it must've been!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Video of Orcas vs. Sperm whales in southern Sri Lanka

INCREDIBLE! Orcas battling sperm whales off Sri Lanka

What a way to break my silence....(and apologise for the lack of activity here. I have heaps of stories lined up so stay tuned). This one is hot off the press and definitely worth checking out - look at the images!!! Unfortunately I was nowhere near the incident, despite this being my stomping ground, but wow wow wow!!!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Why are blue whales so big?

Meet Asha the puppet

Ever wondered why blue whales are SO big? Wonder no more! In this neat animation we strive to answer that very question - so watch on! 

Animated by my friends at Cognitive Media with a story written and narrated by myself as part of the very cool TED Ed initiative.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Incredible blue whale footage

Filmed by my friends at Scubazoo in our beautiful waters! How is it that such a majestic creature roams our planet and we know so little about them and how to take care of them so others will have these same opportunities to marvel?

P.S. This Valentine's day lets step outside our comfort zone and vow to love our oceans better. We need it more than we understand. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Research spotlight: What is a CTD?

Ever wondered how field biologists measure salinity and temperature in the water column??? We use a nifty instrument called a CTD, which in regular english is a Conductivity Temperature Depth recorder (Click here for a more detailed description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conductivity,_temperature,_depth). CTDs come in a range of sizes and limitations. We have chosen a small, portable instrument because we have limited space on the boat and have to hand cast. Its no easy task dropping about 6 kgs on a line down to 100 m and then bringing it back up safely but the prospect of answering questions and unravelling new mysteries helps us forget the calluses on our hands and sore biceps!

We hope you enjoy the first in our Spotlight series that highlights the different techniques used in the field to answer the questions swimming in my head...stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Welcome to our YouTube channel!

Just wanted to welcome you all to our brand spanking new YouTube channel. We uploaded our first video to it a few days ago with more to come! Just click here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ashadevos or search for Asha de Vos. We hope you have as much fun watching all the videos as we have putting together for you! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Intro video to our field season! Watch it here!

Finally.....we are live!!!

Biting the hand that feeds us

Yesterday´s news carried a story about a dolphin massacre off Kalpitiya on the northwest coast of the island. The story is being shared far and wide - as it should be. A big draw card to Kalpitiya in recent years has been these very dolphins that move in large groups and entertain dolphin watchers.

The death of these dolphins was caused by illegal fishing activities in the region involving purse seines or ´laila´nets coupled with dynamite that targets small tuna like species. This is the second time such a mass massacre has been reported (the last was from last year) but dolphins get caught in the midst of these non-traditional fishing activities on a regular basis.

This is indeed a huge tragedy and one that needs careful thought and strong support from the entire conservation community and nature lovers in order to solve. I just learnt that the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) have got the ball rolling and will be working with the relevant authorities and ministries to ensure that such a tragedy does not occur again and that the perpetrators are duly dealt with. The latest news article mentions that the ministry is probing into the situation.

Let us hope for the best. I am confident that the community can come together to make a difference on this matter. We really have to stop biting the hand that feeds us and start protecting the very resources that bring tourists to our shores..

For the news stories, click here http://www.hirunews.lk/52435

Monday, January 28, 2013

Introducing The Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project Field Season 2013: Video

We have an exciting new video on the fun side of being a marine biologist up on our Facebook page. Click here The Unorthodox Whale....Its a really fun video put together by Rachel Sullivan-Lord that will hopefully have you sucked in and waiting for more!

I am trying to figure out how to upload it here (given limited bandwidth) but until such time I hope you will be able to view it at the project's official facebook page!! If you have trouble - leave me a note.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring all the excitement to your home!! Come join us on this incredible adventure to protect the world's largest mammal!

All work is conducted under permits from the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka. We thank them for their support and interest in our research and greater conservation goals.


Beware of photo thieves!

Recognise the photo?

This is just a quick blog post to express my dismay at finding my photo plastered on a poster for whale-watching in Mirissa at the place I had lunch today. You can only imagine my shock when I saw it - ESPECIALLY considering it is (a) the opening photo of my blog and (b) on my blog I had carefully watermarked my name on the bottom right. Please note how they have cropped it out. It compels me to start placing my watermark right over the middle of any photograph I post thereby losing some aesthetic appeal but at least preventing misuse of this nature. It is pretty sad that people do not realise that taking other people's photos amounts to stealing....but what else do they think it is? The saddest part is that it is not just small time operators that do this, I recently found a friend's photograph being used by one of the big hotel companies in the country...and of course my friend didn't even know it. 

I am not into recommending whale-watch companies because in all fairness I have not used all the millions that run out of Mirissa BUT I would ask you and your friends to pay careful attention to the name of this company and judge for yourself if they deserve your money.

Thank you for passing by. Please share this story -- More happy stories to come!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dazzling in the deep: A TED Fellows conversation

"We asked three TED Fellows who work in the briny depths — whale researcher Asha de Vos, coral reef biologist Kristen Marhaver and artist Colleen Flanigan — to discuss how science and art are working in tandem to help the world fully appreciate our vanishing marine life."

For the full conversation click here: http://blog.ted.com/2013/01/11/dazzling-in-the-deep-a-fellows-friday-conversation-with-asha-de-vos-kristen-marhaver-and-colleen-flanigan/#more-67207

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Notes from the field: Another life list +1

While every day on the water is very special to me, some days stick out in my memory more than others. Today happened to be just one such day. We were cruising around, taking photographs of the whales for identification purposes, trying to fiddle with our acoustic equipment and suddenly Salva shouts, “what is that?” We turn around quick and there IT was….. A small black stumpy log that was puffing occasionally but otherwise, not doing much. Thankfully Salva started clicking, which is why I have a photo to share with you all. I cannot stress how important it is document unusual sightings in as many ways possible – photographs, behaviour and other notes – this kind of information is what allows us to determine what it is we are seeing. Good thing the team worked rapid fire because before we knew it, that creature had descended into the depths. We all agreed that it was a dolphin of some sort but it was something I hadn’t seen before. Once back at the house, we downloaded the photos and flipped through the pages of our field guide book and based on its behaviour we found it….a dwarf sperm whale! How ridiculously exciting for me!! A new species to add to my life list and such a elusive one at that!

Moments like this remind me of how mysterious the ocean can be and how many secrets we are yet to uncover…it reminds me how lucky we are to live in an age when we can still see these magnificent creatures despite humanity’s cruelty.... It reminds me how very lucky and blessed I am to do what I do and do what I love....thank you for letting me share my adventures with you!

For a more in depth description on this species visit the American Cetacean Society website http://acsonline.org/fact-sheets/pygmy-sperm-whale/  

Making Tony style lemonade

I've always loved Tony Wu's work. I guess its obvious given all the posts and reposts I've done about his photography. Yesterday's photograph is however quite different. When he sent this to me I looked at it and fell in love all over again! It was not crystal clear, there were stars in the water and the image looked more like a painting than a photograph. In my mind, the low vis conditions that we are experiencing off our coast added a further dimension to the image. As it turns out, the image is growing on Tony....he is getting used to it and learning to appreciate the challenge posed to him by mother nature. To me, thats an awesome attitude and the reason he excels at what he does!!

Here is Tony's take on this image and his first day on the water thus far....http://www.tonywublog.com/20130125/blue-whale-balaenoptera-musculus-diving.html#axzz2J2koHHrj

Monday, January 21, 2013

Notes from a future ocean hero

Anaaha convinced her parents to fly out to Sri Lanka from Bangalore to see the blue whales in our waters. Anaaha is just 8 years old. I had the privilege of speaking to her by phone very briefly and was struck by how much she already knew and how curious her mind was. My favourite question - how do you know that that red stuff is the whale's poo?

All credit goes to Anaaha's parents. One day she will appreciate the support they extended to her to achieve her dreams. Enjoy her thoughts on her day on the water off Mirissa.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

All my bags are packed....

Happy new year! I m all set to go but it seems the weather Gods aren't cooperating again :( We have been experiencing inordinate amounts of rain - very unusual for this time of year - and of course Australia is dealing with a ridiculous scale breaking heat wave. Seems like the two places I split my time between are going through a rough spell.

Well, I am all packed and ready to flee south and spend some time on the water. I just hope the weather Gods allow me to do so....in true Asha style, I remain wildly positive.