National Geographic Expert

Ashli Akins

Dr. Ashli Akins is a cultural ecologist, social entrepreneur, writer, and photographer. She is passionate about cultural revitalization and sustainable development. Ashli is a National Geographic Explorer who is honoured to split her time between the Andean mountains of Peru and the Pacific Northwest of Canada — the traditional territories of the Quechua, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

Ashli has worked for almost two decades in collaboration with Quechua communities of the Peruvian Andes. In 2006, she founded Mosqoy, a charitable organization that works to mitigate adverse effects of unsustainable tourism and development in the region. To do so, Mosqoy operates three keystone programs: a fair-trade textile program, a community-based tourism initiative, and a youth educational scholarship program. She also has ample experience in Canada (British Columbia) and New Zealand, working on photojournalism projects, as a tour guide, as a teacher, as a Park Naturalist, and with community-based initiatives related to Indigenous rights, resource management, and sustainable development. Ashli currently works with UNESCO on the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, as well as with Ecotrust Canada's Indigenous Home-Lands Initiative.

Ashli obtained her PhD in interdisciplinary studies from the University of British Columbia in 2022, with support from the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. There, she explored the currently unsustainable relationship between culture, economy, and the environment. Her dissertation investigated how to safeguard cultural heritage in an era of rapid economic change. Previously, Ashli graduated from the University of Oxford with a master’s in international human rights law and received her bachelor’s from the University of Victoria in environmental studies, Latin American studies, and journalism. She was named UVic’s 2019 Emerging Humanist of the Year and, in 2015, one of the top 50 alumni in history who have made a difference in the world. She is also a writer and photographer and uses these art forms to educate about human rights and environmental injustices.

Ashli is an adventure junkie, and loves trekking, camping, and rock-climbing, especially if it includes her Andean Mountain mutt, Kuki. Though she currently leads a deeply fulfilling and intellectually stimulating life, she sometimes finds herself dreaming of being a goat-farming beekeeping artisanal globemaker when she grows up.