Kelly completed a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Microbiology at UVic (Dept Biochemistry/ Microbiology), and a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany and Phytochemistry at the University of British Columbia (Dept Botany). Her dissertation research was in collaboration with the Secwepemc Nation in the southern interior of British Columbia. Her dissertation combined ethnobotanical field and laboratory research on Secwepemc food and medicinal plants to examine links between traditional knowledge and antimicrobial chemistry. She also undertook an overview of ethical issues related to ethnobotanical research and an analysis of the Canadian intellectual property rights system for protecting traditional plant knowledge and resources.