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.


Kelly’s research program examines legal and moral consistencies and conflicts among university research, ethics, and intellectual property policies and the customary protocols of Indigenous communities. Her goal is to provide research-based evidence to inform change in institutional and national policies on ethical research with Indigenous peoples.

Kelly focuses on cases in ethnobiology and related environmental or human health research that is linked to the expertise of resident and visiting scholars in the CAE. She is based at UVic with the Eco-Research Chair of Environmental Law and Policy (POLIS Project on Ecological Governance), with regular visits to the Centre to participate in seminars and other events.


Kelly is exploring models of collaborative research between communities and academic institutions and coordinating an initiative called “Community-University Connections“, based at the University of Victoria. Community-University Connections is a policy research initiative and network that facilitates collaborative research and is based on the Dutch “science shops” concept. Kelly’s current work is affiliated with two SSHRC-sponsored projects based in the Clayoquot Sound region of Vancouver Island, the MCRI “Coasts Under Stress” project and the CURA “Clayoquot Alliance for Research, Education and Training”.

Kelly also consults as an ethnobotanist for Aboriginal communities in British Columbia and abroad. Her two main interests are in human and environmental health-related aspects of plant chemistry (especially traditional foods and medicines), and ethical issues in research with Indigenous communities (including informed consent, customary law and practices, and intellectual property and cultural heritage rights).