Asha de Vos and Thandiwe Mweetwa

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Location Amphitheater

Gate pass required. Purchase at our Main Gate Welcome Center, (716) 357-6250

Asha de Vos
Marine biologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Thandiwe Mweetwa
Lion biologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer


Asha de Vos is a Sri Lankan marine biologist who oversees the Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project, the first long-term study on blue whales within the northern Indian Ocean. For her work, she was named a 2016 National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

De Vos coined the term “the Unorthodox Whale” based on many years of research on the blue whales around Sri Lankan waters and a realization that they were simply different: smaller, with a restricted habitat range, who feed in warm, tropical waters. Her research and writing have led to this population being designated as a species in urgent need of conservation research by the International Whaling Commission. 

An invited member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cetacean Specialist Group, de Vos is a TED Senior Fellow, a Duke University Global Fellow in Marine Conservation and was recently selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. She received her bachelor’s of science in Marine and Environmental Biology from the University of St. Andrews; her masters in Integrative Biosciences from the University of Oxford, and her PhD from the University of Western Australia.

Thandiwe Mweetwa is a senior ecologist at the Zambia Carnivore Programme where she is also manager of the organization’s conservation education program. In 2016, she was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Mweetwa’s research focuses on studying lion population dynamics in one of Africa’s last remaining strongholds for the species. At the Zambia Carnivore Programme, Mweetwa coordinates outreach programs with local schools and leads students in designing and conducting field-based science research projects. With support from National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, she has also started a training program for Zambian young women wishing to pursue careers in wildlife conservation. Mweetwa is also currently leading various community involvement projects aimed at building support for the protection of large carnivores in the Luangwa Valley.

Mweetwa has received the World Wildlife Federation’s Russell E. Train Fellowship and the Wildlife Conservation Network’s Disney Scholarship for Wildlife Conservation. She earned her bachelor’s in Applied Animal Biology from the University of British Columbia, where she received the International Student Humanitarian Award. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Natural Resources Conservation, majoring in Wildlife Conservation and Management at the University of Arizona.