Press Releases

September 21, 2004

Long Island Environmental Leadership Awards Honors Southampton College Faculty Member

Pekka Paavonpera (

For Immediate Release

Southampton, NY – John “Ral” Welker, a retired Southampton College faculty member who taught in the Natural Sciences Division for nearly 40 years, has been named the recipient of the 2004 Long Island Environmental Leadership Award.  

Dr. Welker, one of the founding faculty members of the marine science program, will be honored at the third annual Awards Dinner on October 21 at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead, NY. A marine ecologist, he came to Southampton in 1965 from the University of Washington and was one of a small contingent of biologists with marine science training that was hired to develop a marine science program for the College.

Over the years, his leadership and vision have helped the now renowned program in marine science to grow and prosper. Under his watchful eye, the on-campus marine station evolved from a single laboratory into the comprehensive and highly professional aquaculture facility it is today.

During his tenure, Dr. Welker taught a variety of courses at the College, including “Conservation of Natural Resources,” “Primary Productivity,” “Limnology,” “Ecology,” “Field Biology,” “Natural Science 1 and 2” and “Marine Ecology,” as well as the team-taught Marine Op course.

He also was actively involved with many local environmental agencies including: The Nature Conservancy, the Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality, the Southampton Town Environmental Board, The Shinnecock Tribal Oyster Project, the Attorney General’s Wetland Task Force and the Advisory Panel for BOCES-SCOP.  In addition, he carried out a number of important environmental studies for government agencies and for local private organizations, and has authored myriad technical reports as well as articles in refereed scientific publications. 

Dr. Welker retired in 1993, having earned the admiration of his students and colleagues at the College, as well as the respect of the entire East End community.  His life’s work has made a tremendous impact on preserving the surrounding beautiful yet fragile environment.  His genuine and caring demeanor and his extraordinary contributions to the marine science program clearly prove him to be a worthy recipient of the Long Island Environmental Award.