Kelly is a research fisheries biologist with a particular interest in understanding how marine species use various habitats. He received a B.S. in biology from Western Washington University in 1996 and an M.S. in ecology from San Diego State University in 2003, where he investigated how the quantity and patchiness of habitat affects recruitment of temperate reef fishes.
Since joining the NWFSC in 2003, he has primarily been studying basic patterns of movement of groundfish species including rockfish, lingcod, sixgill and sevengill sharks, spiny dogfish, white-spotted ratfish, and jellyfish. Much of this research has been focused on determining the vertical and horizontal distribution of individuals at multiple temporal scales (daily, seasonally, and yearly) in Puget Sound, Washington. This research has implications for understanding how marine species will be affected by the size and location of marine protected areas or other marine spatial planning efforts. In addition, he is interested in identifying and testing the efficacy of potential indicators of 'ecosystem health' for the California Current.