Dorris is a marine biologist, educator, and whale watch charter boat owner/naturalist/captain.She has 35 years of museum and university experience teaching natural history and designingexhibitions, researching marine mammals and operating whale watch vessels. She completed hergraduate studies in Marine Education at the University of California, Santa Cruz and her BS in Wildlife Biology at Humboldt State University. She has thirty years of public speaking experience including TV, radio, classes, public presentations and naturalist hikes and tours. She has travelled

extensively, including Mexico, Guatemala and South America and has sailed the Pacifc fromCalifornia to Mexico. Her passionate, delightfully humorous delivery style brings the realm of

natural science to life in a most engaging manner.

Dorris has taught for thirty years, mostly on the topic of marine biology and California ecology, and has appeared on local, national and international television and public radio programs as an expert on marine mammals and marine biology of Monterey Bay. She has presented hundreds of lectures and public talks on natural history and science topics for the Oakland Museum, UC Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and as the owner/operator of Sanctuary Cruises Whale Watch. Dorris has led over a dozen multi-day travel learning expeditions for the Oakland Museum of California Natural Sciences Guild, mostly in California but also to Belize, Galapagos and Maine.

Recently Dorris appeared on the BBC/PBS Big Blue Live series on Monterey Bay as the local whale expert and was the primary local advisor to this production.   Ms. Welch has been an advisor to the National Marine Sanctuary programs for 25 years and involved in marine conservation and education efforts throughout California. Dorris is the author of many publications and articles on California environments and has appeared on numerous television and radio specials on marine biology. 

Cruise Talk Topics

Special Interest Marine Biology and Cultural HistoryTopics


Whales: Close Encounters. 

Explore the natural history, adaptations and successes of our ocean giants through first hand observations of a professional whale watch captain/biologist on the Monterey Bay. View superb images and drone footage of humpbacks, blues, grays and killer whales and hear first-hand accounts from a marine biologist describing their behaviors and natural history.


Humpback Whales - Leviathan Acrobats 

Explore the natural history, adaptations and successes of this charismatic whale through first hand observations of a professional whale watch captain/biologist on the Monterey Bay. These watchable whales are famous for their aerial acrobatics, melodious song and feeding frenzies and  are found both in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Drone footage for feeding frenzies and underwater images will delight. Swimming with the Giants: Humpback Whales of Tonga - Amazing first-hand underwater encounters will be illustrated with photos and video of mothers, calves and curious interactive young whales from the Tonga nursery grounds.


Dolphins: superb adaptations for life at sea

Hear first hand accounts of dolphin studies both in the lab and out at sea as Ms Welch describes her work with bottlenose and white sided dolphins in the marine lab setting and ten years of observations of wild dolphins on Monterey Bay, including the largest dolphin, the Killer Whale.


Sea Otter Saga

View adorable images of sea otters, learn about the historical fur trade that caused  their near extinction and hear the heartwarming story of their remarkable recovery along the NE Pacific coast.

Hear personal observations and amusing anecdotes from a marine biologist perspective.


Killer Whales: Apex Predators of our Seas

Close-knit kinships and coordinated hunting techniques set the orcas, or killer whales, apart from their dolphin cousins. Hear first hand encounters and view striking images of these master predators in their natural habitat. Listen to eerie vocalizations and view drone footage of amazing orca antics.


Gray Whales of Baja

Hear first-hand stories from the three main Baja, Mexico calving lagoons and the California migration route. Images will illustrate the life history and migration of these amazing whales and follow their annual journey from Arctic feeding grounds to Baja breeding grounds and back.


Amazing Seabirds: Masters of Migration

See beautiful images of seabirds - from albatross to pelicans  - at sea and on nesting islands and learn about their remarkable migrations, adaptations and how human activities threaten their survival. Learn about the importance of offshore islands to the conservation of endangered seabird rookeries.


South Pacific Marine Life Encounters in Tonga  

Amazing underwater encounters will be illustrated with photos and video of mothers, calves and curious interactive young whales from the Tonga nursery grounds, one of the few places in the world where we can swim with whales. Coral reef life images will highlight colorful tropical fish and invertebrates. The lively Tongan human culture will also be touched upon.


Furred and Flippered: Seals, Sea Lions, Sea Otters

View engaging images and hear natural history tales about the flippered amphibious mammals inhabiting the Northeast Pacific coastline. With a focus on California sea lions, northern elephant seals and California sea otters, images of research experiences with elephant seals and video of diving with sea lions will highlight this talk.


Manatees - the original “mermaids”  

The Sirenians (manatees and dugongs) occur worldwide and are endangered everywhere. Learn about these gentle vegetarian marine mammals and recovery efforts to save them from extinction. Swimming with manatees is an experience of a lifetime that will be shared via photos and video along with their important conservation success story.


Ancient Mayan Ruins in the Jungle

Hear first-hand stories from travels through Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan exploring Mayan ruins, deep jungles, wildlife and culture.  Ancient sites Tikal and Palenque are illustrated with interpretations of the mysteries they reveal, highlighting the most important discoveries and Mayan nature art and iconography.


Cruising the Sea of Cortez with John Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts

This historic 1940 expedition aboard a Monterey fishing vessel of marine biologist and famous novelist as recounted through Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez excerpts juxtaposed with Ms Welch’s recent marine biological observations and first hand sailing experiences from California to Baja Mexico into the Sea of Cortez. Historical and contemporary images are paired with quotes creating a colorful mix of literary history, marine biology and travelogue.


Cuban Ecological Encounters

Environmental conservation practices in Cuba illustrate how sustainability practices preserve paradise. Hear first-hands accounts of ecotourism’s positive impact on saving habitats and promoting sustainability in Cuba’s tropical rain forests, coral reefs, limestone caves and cenotes.  Images of personal encounters with crocodiles, birds, bats, coral reef life and Cubans working to save them will illustrate Cuba’s rich biodiversity.


Humans and the Sea: Tales of Interconnectedness

View historical images of native coastal peoples’ rich history of accessing and utilizing the bounty of the sea in ingenious ways through fishing, whaling, and foraging. Hear native tales of connections to the sea and reverence for the life that sustained them.


John Muir’s Alaskan Explorations

Explore the journal entries and exquisite drawings of the Father of the Conservation Movement, John Muir’s travels through Alaska and observations on the indigenous culture, glaciers and botany at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. Ms. Welch has first hand experience with Muir’s artifacts as curator/scholar for the Museum of California’s 2012 John Muir Exhibition.


Whaling Tales from Indigenous Peoples to Tall Ships

Whaling was big business in the 18th and 19th centuries. View historical images and hear tales of whalers meeting the challenges of navigation in rugged seas, hunting massive whales in small dinghies with hand held harpoons and harvesting the bounty of the precious oil in an era where whale oil was more valuable than gold.


Glaciers: Here Today and Gone Tomorrow?

Glaciers have shaped our landscapes worldwide and continue to carve mountains and shorelines. This talk will feature historical images of North American glaciers paired with current day views to illustrate the massive changes occurring. Historical anecdotes from John Muir’s glacial explorations in the late 1800s with images from his journal illustrations provide perspective. Glacial terrain features are illustrated to help travelers interpret geological landscapes they encounter.


Russian Fur Trade in the Pacific Northwest

Early exploration of Alaskan waters was driven by the profitable fur trade. Historical images and anecdotes will illustrate the hunt for fur seals, sea otters, the role of indigenous peoples and historic settlements from Sitka, Alaska to Fort Ross, California during this era.


Pacific Northwest Indigenous Culture: Art and Ecology

Striking images of indigenous art and historical photographs will illustrate this introduction to the native peoples of the Pacific Northwest. Their relationship to the coastline and sea for sustenance and spiritual practices will be highlighted.


Emily Carr: Pioneering Artist and Activist of British Columbia

View images of Carr’s folk art depicting indigenous peoples and landscapes of Vancouver Island at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Stories of this progressive woman’s life will shed light on the contrast between the Victorian era lifestyle in Victoria and the lives of native peoples