Welcome! I'm Kelly, a.k.a. "Dr. Kelpy" to my students. I teach and write about the ocean from a historical/cultural perspective, working above and below the surface all over the world from my home base in Seattle. I'm delighted to be returning to Connecticut for the Fall 2023 term as Visiting Professor of Ocean Literature at Williams-Mystic: the Interdisciplinary Ocean and Coastal Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport Museum.
I combine archival research with my underwater experience as a dive pro to help connect people to our one global ocean. I've published on the cultural history of cephalopods, the whale's body as palimpsestic text, the history of captive belugas, and other ways in which social and environmental justice are historically inextricable.
I was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area but spent every summer in a cabin with no electricity or running water on a small island in northwest Washington state. Most of my twenties were in England, first as an exchange student at Cambridge then for a PhD in Victorian Lit at the University of London. After stretches of teaching and research in Connecticut, Virginia, Florida, and most recently Germany, I returned to Seattle in 2018 and reside on the traditional territory of the culturally- and linguistically diverse Coast Salish peoples.
I’ve a been Fellow of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Instructor for Inspiring Girls Expeditions, Humanities Scholar-in-Residence for an Arctic expedition team, Head of Education of Western Washington University's community aquarium, volunteer naturalist aboard cetacean conservation and education programs, and a team leader for the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Team. (At VAQS I saw firsthand the effects of human interference on sea creatures, including turtles suffocated by balloons or tangled in fishing line, whales with bellies full of plastic, and dolphins driven ashore by sonar testing.)
Today I’m also a Board Member at the Center for Open Exploration and PADI Master SCUBA Diver Trainer at Seattle Dive Tours (a unique dive operator providing conservation-focused dive training and educational dive travel in the Pacific Northwest and across the world).
When I'm not teaching or underwater (or teaching underwater) you can find me rowing a wooden boat around the Salish Sea.
I'm a NOLS Wilderness First Responder.
My parents like to say I could row before I could walk.
My first drysuit flood was in Greenland. (This fact was not especially "fun" as it was happening.)
One of the most incredible animals I responded to at VAQS was a Cuvier's Beaked Whale!