Brian Kelley | Assistant Professor | Penn State University

Department of Geosciences

Co-evolution of Earth environment and life, stratigraphy & sedimentology, paleobiology & paleoceanography

Professional Experience

The Pennsylvania State University, 2020 to Present

The University of Wyoming, 2019-2020

ExxonMobil Upstream Research and Exploration, 2014-2019

Great Lakes Energy Partners (Range), 2003-2006


PhD, Stanford University, Geological Sciences, 2014

BSc, Kent State University, Geology, 2006

Student Opportunities

I have opportunities for students in 2021-2022 academic year. Please read through my research interests and consider applying. Interested students can contact me to discuss potential projects.

Research Statement and Projects

Carbonate depositional systems are exceptional archives of Earth system processes because their development is genetically linked to tectonic, climatic, biologic, and chemical conditions. I focus on carbonate systems to better understand fundamental Earth system processes and to investigate the evolution of life on Earth.

How do tectonic, climatic, chemical, and biological systems evolve to influence the architecture and distribution of carbonate depositional systems? To improve the understanding of controls on patterns of carbonate sedimentation, I study depositional systems that span intervals of global change. These intervals provide an opportunity to more directly link environmental mechanisms with resulting sedimentary architecture. A current research project is designed to investigate the oceanic controls that influenced the spatial and stratigraphic variability of carbonate platform morphology across the Paleozoic to Mesozoic transition.

How do patterns of ocean environmental change influence the spatial and temporal distribution of marine biodiversity? The magnitude and rate of environmental change have influenced the creation, retention, and depletion of marine biodiversity throughout the history of life on Earth. Reefs and other tropical benthic communities are among the most complex and diverse ecosystems, and they are the key carbonate sediment producers in marine environments. Although reef-building organisms construct massive frameworks of calcium carbonate and have excellent fossil and stratigraphic records, they also tend to be ecologically fragile and vulnerable to changes in environmental conditions. Consequently, reefs are valuable indicators of global marine ecosystem health on geologic time scales. A current research project is designed to investigate the controls on the absence of diverse reefs for millions of years following the end-Permian extinction, the pattern and timing of their recovery in the early Mesozoic, and the advent of modern-style reef ecosystems and scleractinian corals during the Middle Triassic.

Teaching Statement

I believe that students learn best in a supportive and encouraging environment that combines exposition, experiential practice, peer teaching, and group interaction. For geologists, the rocks themselves are often the best teachers, so I try to learn in the field with students as much as possible. Earth science is constantly evolving, however, and advances in computational technology, data availability, and laboratory techniques have made programming and analytical skills increasingly important. As a result, I strive to help my students develop and master a broad range of skills that will make them highly competitive in modern job markets.


[18] Altiner, Demir, Payne, Jonathan L., Özkan-Altiner, Sevinç, Lehrmann, Daniel J., Kelley, B.M., Summers, Mindi L., and Yu, M., Triassic foraminifera from the Great Bank of Guizhou, Nanpanjiang Basin, south China: taxonomic account, biostratigraphy, and implications for recovery from end-Permian extinction, in review.

[17] Kelley, B.M., Lehrmann, D.J., Yu, M., Lau, K.V., Minzoni, M., Enos, P., Li, X., and Payne, J.L., Influence of platform to basin relief on carbonate platform evolution: the Xiliang margin of the Great Bank of Guizhou, south China, in revision.

[16] Li, Xiaowei, Trower, Elizabeth J., Lehrmann, Daniel J.,Minzoni, Marcello, Kelley, B.M., Schaal, Ellen K., Altiner, Demir, Yu, Meiyi, and Payne, J.L., Implications of giant ooids for the carbonate chemistry of Early Triassic seawater, in revision.

[15] Kelley, B.M., Lehrmann, D.J., Yu, M., Minzoni, M., Enos, P., Li, X., and Payne, J.L., Stratigraphic evolution of the Permian to Triassic Great Bank of Guizhou, in revision.

[14] Kelley, B.M., Lehrmann, D.J., Yu, M., Jost, A.B., Lau, K.V., Meyer, K.M., Altiner, D., Minzoni, M., Schaal, E.K., and Payne, J.L. (2020) Controls on carbonate platform architecture and reef recovery across the Paleozoic to Mesozoic transition: A high-resolution analysis of the Great Bank of Guizhou. Sedimentology.

[13] Fullmer, S., Al Qassab, H., Buono, A., Gao, B., Kelley, B.M., and Moore, P.J., (2019), Carbonate pore-system influence on hydrocarbon displacement and potential recovery, In McNeill, D.F., Harris, P. (Mitch), Rankey, E.C., and Hsieh, J.C.C., eds., Carbonate Pore Systems: New Developments and Case Studies: v. 112. SEPM, Tulsa, Oklahoma, p. 268-284.

[12] Lau, K.V., Maher, K., Brown, S.T., Jost, A.B., Altiner, D., DePaolo, D.J., Eisenhauer, A., Kelley, B.M., Lehrmann, D.J., Paytan, A. and Yu, M. (2017) The influence of seawater carbonate chemistry, mineralogy, and diagenesis on calcium isotope variations in Lower-Middle Triassic carbonate rocks. Chemical Geology, v. 471, p. 13-37.

[11] Kelley, B.M., Lehrmann, D.J., Yu, M., Minzoni, M., Enos, P., Li, X., Lau, K.V., and Payne, J.L. (2017) The Late Permian to Late Triassic Great Bank of Guizhou: An isolated carbonate platform in the Nanpanjiang Basin of Guizhou Province, China. AAPG Bulletin, v. 101, p. 553-562.

[10] Lau, K.V., Maher, K., Altiner, D., Kelley, B.M., Lehrmann, D.J., Silva-Tamayo, J.C., Weaver, K.L., Yu, M., & Payne, J.L. (2016) Marine anoxia and delayed Earth system recovery after the end-Permian extinction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, v. 113, p. 2360-2365.

[9] Lehrmann, D.J., Bentz, J.M., Wood, T., Goers, A., Dhillon, R., Akin, S., Li, X., Payne, J.L., Kelley, B.M., Meyer, K.M. and Schaal, E.K. (2015) Environmental controls on the genesis of marine microbialites and dissolution surface associated with the end-Permian mass extinction: new sections and observations from the Nanpanjiang Basin, South China. Palaios, v. 30, p. 529-552.

[8] Lehrmann, D.J., Chaikin, D.H., Enos, P., Minzoni, M., Payne, J.L., Yu, M., Goers, A., Wood, T., Richter, P., Kelley, B.M., Li, X., Qin, Y., Liu, L. and Lu, G. (2015) Patterns of basin fill in Triassic turbidites of the Nanpanjiang basin: implications for regional tectonics and impacts on carbonate platform evolution. Basin Research, v. 27, p. 587-612.

[7] Minzoni, M., Lehrmann, D.J., Payne, J.L., Enos, P., Yu, M., Wei, J., Kelley, B.M., Li, X., Schaal, E. and Meyer, K. (2014) Triassic tank: Platform margin and slope architecture in space and time, Nanpanjiang Basin, south China. In: Deposits, Architecture, and Controls of Carbonate Margin, Slope, and Basinal Settings: SEPM, Special Publication (Eds T. Playton, P. Harris and K. Verwer), v. 105, p. 84-113.

[6] Lehrmann, D.J., Minzoni, M., Li, X., Yu, M., Payne, J.L., Kelley, B.M., Schaal, E.K., and Enos, P. (2012) Lower Triassic oolites of the Nanpanjiang Basin, south China: controls on facies architecture, giant ooids, diagenesis and implications for hydrocarbon reservoirs: AAPG Bulletin, v. 96, p. 1389-1414.

[5] Li, X., Yu, M., Lehrmann, D.J., Payne, J.L., Kelley, B.M., and Minzoni, M. (2012) Factors controlling carbonate platform asymmetry: Preliminary results from the Great Bank of Guizhou, an isolated Permian–Triassic platform in the Nanpanjiang basin, south China: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 315-316, p. 158-171.

[4] Li, X., Yu, M., Payne, J.L, and Kelley, B.M. (2011) Comparison on rock and chemical strata of Lower Triassic series, the Great Bank of Guizhou, south China: Guizhou Geology, v. 28, p. 161-166.

[3] Meyer, K.M., Yu, M., Jost, A.B., Kelley, B.M., and Payne, J.L. (2011) δ13C evidence that high primary productivity delayed recovery from end-Permian mass extinction: Earth and Planetary Science Letters, v. 302, p. 378-384.

[2] Feldmann, R.M., Schweitzer, C.E., Maxwell, P.A., and Kelley, B.M. (2008) Fossil isopod and decapod crustaceans from the Kowai Formation (Pliocene) near Makikihi, South Canterbury, New Zealand: New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics, v. 51, p. 43-58.

[1] Crawford, R.S., Feldmann, R.M., Waugh, D.A., Kelley, B.M., and Allen, J.G. (2006) Decapod crustaceans from the Maastrichtian Fox Hills Formation: Bulletin of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, v. 47, p. 3-28.