Neil Patrick Kelley, PhD

Peter Buck Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Department of Paleobiology

National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian Institution

P.O. Box 37012

Washington D.C., 20013-7012

email: KelleyNP [at] si [dot] edu

staff website:


University of California, Davis    Davis, CA

September 2007 – November 2012

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy, Geology


Oberlin College     Oberlin, OH     

September 1999 - May 2003

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, May 2003    

Majors: Biology (High Honors), Geology 


Basis Foundation Grant – The Basis Foundation, California 2014- 

Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellowship – Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 2014- 

Durrell Research Funds – University of California, Davis 2008, 2009, 2010

Geological Society of America Graduate Research Grant 2010

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology/Jackson School of Geosciences Travel Grant 2009

Graduate Scholars Fellowship - University of California, Davis 2007-2008

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorable Mention 2007

Wharton Prize in Geology – Oberlin College 2003

Biology Department Award – Oberlin College 2003

NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Intern – University of Minnesota 2002


PhD Dissertation: Kelley, N. 2012,Trophic ecomorphology of Triassic marine reptiles.” University of California, Davis.

Kelley, N. P. & Pyenson, N. D. 2015. “Evolutionary innovation and ecology in marine tetrapods from the Triassic to the Anthropocene.” Science, 348(6232), doi: 10.1126/science.aaa3716

Kelley, N. P. & Motani. R. 2015, “Trophic convergence drives morphological convergence in marine tetrapods.” Biology Letters 11:2 doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0709

Kelley, N. P., Motani, R., Rieppel, O., Jiang, D. & Schmitz, L. 2014 “Selective extinction of Triassic marine reptiles during long-term sea level changes illuminated by seawater strontium isotopes.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 400:9–16 doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2012.07.026

Pyenson, N., Kelley, N. P., & Parham, J. 2014 “Marine tetrapod macroevolution: Physical and biological drivers on 250 Ma of invasions and evolution in ocean ecosystems” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 400:1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2014.02.018

Druckenmiller, P. S., Kelley, N. P., Whalen, M. T., McRoberts, C., & Carter, J. G. 2014. “An Upper Triassic (Norian) ichthyosaur (Reptilia, Ichthyopterygia) from northern Alaska and dietary insight based on gut contents.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 34(6), 1460–1465. doi: 10.1080/02724634.2014.866573

Myers, C. G., Oster, J. L., Sharp, W. D., Bennartz, R., Kelley, N. P., Covey, A. K., & Breitenbach, S. F. 2015. Northeast Indian stalagmite records Pacific decadal climate change: implications for moisture transport and drought in India. Geophysical Research Letters, 42, doi:10.1002/2015GL063826.

Liu, J., Hu, S., Rieppel, O., Jiang, D-y, Benton, M., Kelley, N. P., Aitchison, Zhou, C-y., Wen, W., Huan, J-y., Xie, T., & Lv, T.  2014. “A gigantic nothosaur (Reptilia: Sauropterygia) from the Middle Triassic of SW China and its implication for the Triassic biotic recovery.” Scientific Reports, 4:7142 doi:10.1038/srep07142

Motani, R., Ji, C., Tomita, T., Kelley, N. P., Maxwell, E., Jiang, D., & Sander, P.M. 2013 “Absence of Suction Feeding Ichthyosaurs and Its Implications for Triassic Mesopelagic Paleoecology.” PLoS ONE 8(12): e66075. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066075

Oster, J., Montañez I., Kelley, N. P., 2012 “Response of a modern cave system to large seasonal precipitation variability” Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 91:92–108

doi: 10.1016/j.gca.2012.05.027


Kelley, N., Pyenson, N.  Reconciling patterns of convergence and innovation in marine tetrapod macroevolution from Triassic to Recent.” 4th International Palaeontological Congress, Mendoza, Argentina, September 2014

Kelley, N. Ecomorphological diversity of Triassic marine reptiles” Romer Prize Session

73rd Annual Meeting of  the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Los Angeles, CA, November 2013

Kelley, N., Motani, R., Embree, P. “A new Lower Triassic ichthyopterygian fauna from Fossil Hill, Nevada” 72nd Annual Meeting of  the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Raleigh, NC, October 2012

Kelley, N., Motani, R., Jiang, D., Rieppel. O. “Global geochemical context of early Mesozoic marine reptile evolution” 70th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Pittsburgh, PA, October 2010

Kelley, N., Motani, R., Jiang, D., Rieppel, O., Oster, J. “Suffering a sea change: the evolution and extinction of Triassic marine reptiles” Geological Society of America, Cordilleran Section/Pacific Section American Association of Petroleum Geologists Regional Meeting, Anaheim, CA, May 2010

Kelley, N., Motani, R., Jiang, D., Rieppel, O., Andrea, T. “Rapid diversification of dental and jaw morphology among marine reptiles during the Triassic recovery” 69th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Bristol, UK, September 2009

Druckenmiller, P., Whalen, M., Kelley, N. “An upper Triassic (Norian) ichthyosaur with gut contents from the Otuk Formation, western Brooks Range, Alaska” 70th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Pittsburgh, PA, October 2010 - Poster


Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN     Nashville, TN

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Lecturer    Jan. 2013–December 2014

    Taught and co-taught undergraduate lecture courses including EES 103 – Oceanography and EES 202 – Earth Systems through Time. Organized course, prepared and delivered lectures, organized and led field trips, assessed student performance.

University of California, Davis     Davis, CA

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences; Department of Evolution and Ecology

Lecturer    June 2010–Aug 2011

    Taught and co-taught undergraduate lecture courses including Geology 3 - History of Life and Geology 107 – Paleobiology. Organized course, prepared and delivered lectures, assessed student performance.

Teaching assistant    Sept 2008–Dec 2011

    Instructor in undergraduate lab, lecture and discussion courses; developed and directed lab activities, including rock and mineral identification, vertebrate dissection, data collection and analysis.  Led group discussions and evaluated student presentations, individual projects, research papers, quizzes, exams and lab reports.

Courses taught: GEL 1 Introduction to Geology, GEL 3 History of Life, GEL 107 Paleobiology, GEL 115 Geology and Society, EVE 105 Vertebrate Anatomy

California Summer School for Math and Sciences (COSMOS)    Davis, CA

Teaching Assistant/Teacher Fellow    Summers 2008–2010

    Designed and prepared classroom and laboratory activities for gifted high school students participating in a residential summer program, mentored students working on individual research projects, planned and directed field trips to explore climate change research, natural resources, natural science and environmental policy issues in California.

Explorit Science Center    Davis, CA

Education Specialist    Sep 2005—Sep 2007

        Developed and led classroom outreach and onsite hands-on science programs for kindergarten through secondary-aged students; developed summer science programs for elementary aged students; led hands on workshops for elementary and secondary school teachers; interpreted exhibits and led outdoor education programs; developed exhibits, prepared teacher supplements for museum programs and cared for animals used for onsite and outreach programs; wrote promotional columns for the Davis Enterprise newspaper.

Sierra Institute    Mono Basin, CA

Field Instructor     July 2006

    Organized and led two days of geology field lessons as part of a larger multi-week field course on Sierra Nevada natural history.


Invited talks

   Paleontological Society of Washington, DC. Title: "Diversity, Disparity and Convergence in Marine Tetrapod Macroevolution”, November 19, 2014

   Oberlin College Geology Department, Oberlin, OH. Title: “The Life Aquatic: Parallel Evolutionary Pathways in Secondarily Marine Tetrapods,” April 4, 2014

   University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, CA. Title: “Linking Strontium Isotopes, Sea Level and Marine Reptile Diversity” September, 2010

Public Outreach Programs:

   Explorit Science Center, March 2009

   UC Davis, Darwin Day Festival, February 2009

   Middle Tennessee Geography Bee, Keynote Speaker and Judge, December 2012, November 2013

   Presentations to classroom and college groups in California and Washington, DC

Guest posts on Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History blogs:

 Select Media Coverage of Research:

·       Take a Deep Dive Into The Reasons Land Animals Moved to the Seas” Smithsonian Magazine website: April 16, 2015

·       “How land animals became marine animals: 'They followed their stomachs'” - Interview with Splendid Table radio program host Lynne Rosetto Kasper: Air date: April 10, 2015

·       “Fossil of fanged sea dragon is a sign of life after the ‘Great Dying’” CBS News November 27, 2014

·       “Researchers identify species, last meal of ancient Alaska marine reptile” Alaska Dispatch News November 24, 2014

Other publications

Kelley, N. 2014 “Review: Berta, A. 2012. Return to the Sea: The Life and Evolutionary Times of Marine Mammals” Priscum - Newsletter of the Paleontological Society 21(2).

Kelley, N. 2010 “Henry Snow’s adventure films” in The Marvelous Museum: Orphans, Curiosities & Treasures: A Mark Dion Project. Ed. Andrew Leland. Chronicle Books.

Kelley, N. 2008 “In the eyes of the aye-ayes” in The Open Laboratory 2007: Best of Science Writing on Blogs. Eds. Reed Cartwright and Bora Zivokovic. Lulu.

Select newspaper columns:

“Learn about genetic differences between humans, chimps” Davis Enterprise April 11, 2008

“Take a tour of the ‘dark side of the universe’” Davis Enterprise February 15, 2008

“Dig into the origins of food” Davis Enterprise September 28, 2007

“Researching the hidden language of mandrill monkeys” Davis Enterprise July 13, 2007

“At Explorit, dig into the world of fossils” Davis Enterprise November 10, 2006


Physical Drivers and Marine Tetrapod Evolution

Co-organized a special interdisciplinary symposium for the 2010 meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, together with Drs. R. Fordyce, J. Parham, and N. Pyenson. Co-edited a special volume of papers on marine tetrapod evolution for the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology that grew from this symposium.

Cleath and Associates    San Luis Obispo, CA

Staff Geologist    Apr 2004—Sep 2005

Planned and carried out a variety of projects as a consulting geologist, including ground water monitoring and sampling, water well design and pump testing, sand and gravel mining exploration, geological hazard investigations. 

Fossil Butte National Monument     Kemmerer, WY

Interpretive Naturalist/Paleontologist    Summer 2004

Geological Society of America sponsored internship.  Demonstrated field paleontology techniques to visitors and gave presentations about the natural history of the park; mapped and collected fossil resources in the park; curated park fossil and archival collections.