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 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 PRI, she completed her Masters of 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. Currently, she is working on her PhD at the University of Georgia with Dr. Sally Walker. There are still bivalves, but this time she is looking at the growth and biochemistry of an Antarctic scallop species to assess its suitability as a paleoenvironmental proxy and predict the affects of climate change on this species and its ecosystem.