Kelly received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Cornell University and worked for several years at the Paleontological Research Institution before returning to school. At the PRI she worked as the Assistant to the Director and in various positions on the Education team. She was involved with teacher professional development, public outreach, and exhibit development in subjects ranging from climate to shale gas to paleontology.
After the PRI, she completed her master’s degree in Geology with Dr. Patricia Kelley at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, where she studied lifespan bias in the fossil record and got to dig up clams on tidal flats. She is currently working on her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia with Dr. Sally Walker, studying the growth and biochemistry of a modern-day Antarctic scallop species to assess its suitability as a paleoenvironmental proxy for understanding past climate conditions and predict the effects of climate change on this species and its ecosystem.