Academic Credentials
  • Ph.D., Geological Sciences, University of Southern California, 2022
  • B.S., Marine Science, University of South Carolina, 2016
Professional Affiliations
  • American Bar Association (ABA), Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER)

Dr. Kelly is a geochemist who specializes in environmental metal chemistry, microbiology, and oceanography. She has extensive knowledge of transition metals (e.g., iron, lead, copper, zinc, nickel, manganese, cobalt) and has studied these metals in many geologic (particulates, aerosols, seawater, freshwater) and biologic (microogranisms, viruses) samples. 

Dr. Kelly's Ph.D. dissertation focused on identifying metal sources to natural environments, investigating the transport of metals, and determining if these metals are causing shifts in microbial community biomass or structure. Dr. Kelly has more than 8 years of experience performing chemical, biological, and data analyses, including isotopic fingerprinting, tracking viral infection, and building machine learning algorithms. In addition to her laboratory experience, Dr. Kelly also has extensive field work experience both on land and at sea. She participated in 6 major research expeditions, which included investigating the chemical impacts of the 2018 Kilauea eruption (Hawaii) and the 2017 Thomas Fire (California) on nearby coastal waters. Throughout her Ph.D., Dr. Kelly participated in several international scientific collaborations, including the Simons Collaboration on Ocean Processes and Ecology and the Tara Oceans Foundation.

Dr. Kelly has worked on projects to evaluate the larger environmental impacts of metals. She has measured metals at trace concentrations in hundreds of samples collected across the global ocean and compared her measurements to historical metal data. Using machine learning algorithms and environmental data, she then identified the likely sources of metals to the sampling regions. Dr. Kelly also studied the transport of metals and burnt organic matter released by the 2017 Thomas Fire and a subsequent flash-flood event to identify the impacts of wildfire-associated chemicals on nearby river and coastal waters. Dr. Kelly has also evaluated the effects of metals on microbial life. For example, she looked at how increases in aqueous concentrations of the micronutrient iron affected the viral infection of marine bacteria. She also designed a novel approach to measure the relative bioavailability of various recycled iron sources to a natural marine community using isotopic fingerprinting.