Kelly Ferguson
Fictional Character
POD: Set in the future
Appearance(s): All volumes
Type of Appearance: Direct POV
Nationality: United States
Religion: Secular Jew
Occupation: PhD student,
University Lecturer
Parents: Leonard Birnbaum and Miriam Birnbaum
Spouse: Colin Ferguson
Affiliations: University of California, Berkeley,

California State University, Dominguez Hills

Kelly Ferguson, (née Birnbaum) was a geology graduate student working on her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley. She was studying the geology of the Yellowstone Supervolcano caldera for her dissertation and so spent time at the Yellowstone National Park. One day she was checking a seismograph that was off the public boardwalk when she was barked at by Colin Ferguson for disobeying the signs requiring people to remain on it.[1]

Since she had a right to be where she was, she put him in his place. This would have been the end of it but a chance earthquake led Colin to remark that it must have been a 5.3 to 5.5 and some distance away. This indicated that he was from California, just as she was which led to a conversation on the general geology of the park and their backgrounds. Kelly found he wasn't the jerk he first appeared to be so gave Colin her cell number. He gave her his and an e-mail address that didn't go through the San Atanasio PD. Kelly then suggested he go explore the park which Colin took to mean to not come on too strong.[2] He did follow up some days later and the two began dating.

Kelly continued to do research at Yellowstone as part of a geological team. The team was led by Larry Skrtel, a long time employee of the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition to Kelly, there was Ruth Marquez, another geology grad student from the University of Utah and Daniel Olson, an instructor on a tenure-track at Montana State in Missoula. They investigated the increase in geyser activity at Coffee Pot Springs which Kelly thought was a warning sign.[3]

Kelly and her department chairman did not like what she was seeing in Yellowstone but had a hard time getting people in the Interior Department to listen to them. She told Colin it was a question of scale, that the U.S. never faced anything of this magnitude. Colin gave the example of the South Bay Strangler, that he was big news to the media but that the millions killed by Hitler, Stalin or Mao were just a statistic that no one could feel. Kelly agreed that that was the situation, that the Supervolcano was just too big to plan for.[4]

Kelly and the rest of the team also investigated the eruption of a conventional volcano at Ranger Lake.[5] While some geologists believed this would ease the underground pressure and prevent the Supervolcano from erupting, Kelly was skeptical. She thought the increased activity at Coffee Pot Springs indicated too much pressure was building up.[6]

The team were staying at West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake during their continuing studies when a second volcano began erupting at Coffee Pot Springs. A series of 7.0 magnitude quakes began leading to the team to look to ways to get out of the park. Larry Skrtel managed to get a colleague‎‎ to arrange for two helicopters to evacuate the team the next morning. They were picked up and got to Butte, Montana (the helicopters' fuel range) before the Supervolcano erupted. From there, they took a pre-arranged rental car to Missoula and took up temporary residence in Daniel Olson's apartment.[7]

Kelly and the other two geologists were trapped in Olson's apartment for some time as the erupt not only grounded flights into and out of Missoula but also motor vehicles couldn't go more that about fifty miles before the airborne ash stalled its engine. Eventually the weight of the accumulated ash crushed the main natural gas pipeline into the city from further east cutting off supplies. However, electricity remained on.[8] Colin managed to call in a favor with Roy Schurz, his former patrol-car partner who was the police chief of Orofino, Idaho, to get Kelly back to California. Schurz borrowed a Humvee with a desert air filter from the National Guard and drove out to Missoula to pick her up and bring her back to Orofino where she able to get back to Berkeley.[9]

Kelly continued to work on her PhD and date Colin.[10] The U.S. Geological Survey arranged for an overflight of the supervolcano caldera a few months after the eruption and she took part on board the chartered Learjet. Kelly didn't mention her participation to Colin for fear of him calling her an idiot.[11] which proved to be the case when she showed him the photos she took on the flight. However, he accepted her determination and, in fact, proposed to her on that occasion which she accepted.[12]

The two were married early the following year in a Jewish ceremony. Wes Jones, Colin's long time neighbor was his best man but only Marshall attended since Rob was marooned in Maine and Vanessa was stuck in Camp Constitution. The two first honeymooned in the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA but couldn't continue to San Diego because it snowed for the first time since January of 1949.[13] The reaction from the Colin's children and ex-wife to this marriage ranged from lukewarm to cold. When Marshall graduated, he moved back to the family home. Over time, he began to view Kelly as more of an older sister than step-mother and found he liked her better than his actual sister.[14]

Kelly's chairman at UC, Berkeley, Geoff Rheinburg, managed to arrange for her to get a lecturer's slot at Cal State Dominguez Hills. It served well as a wedding gift as San Atanasio was only a fifteen minute drive to the campus.[15] While the State Us were considered second tier, Kelly found the students to be of two types, some as bright as any at UC campuses but couldn't afford to attend, while others wouldn't be qualified to attend UCs and were just tying to get by at State U. She did try her best to teach them geology regardless.[16]

The second December after the eruption, Kelly attended a geologists' convention in Portland, Oregon where she presented her first, major, sole paper on the eruption. She met Olson at the conference and he updated her on how things were in Missoula. On the morning of her presentation, she had breakfast with Olson and then Prof. Rheinburg introduced her to the audience for her talk. Her presentation went well with cogent and technical questions afterwards. Rheinburg congratulated her on a good job when she finished and the two chatted for a bit before the next presentation.[17]

About two years after the eruption, Kelly began trying to have a child with Colin. She stopped using a diaphragm when the two had sex which was something of a relief to her.[18] Kelly finally did become pregnant the following spring.[19]

Prior to her pregnancy, Kelly took part in another USGS project, an overland expedition to the supervolcano caldera from Missoula. Larry Skrtel headed the expedition with both Geoff Rheinburg and Daniel Olson also participating. The expedition succeeded, both in collecting samples of minerals and vegetation along the route as well as photos of the surrounding mountains, and reaching the caldera to view the still erupting floor along with collect samples on its walls.[20]

Almost three years after the eruption, Vanessa returned to Los Angeles and took up temporary residence in her old bedroom in the family home. She and Kelly did not get along from the start and things did not improve over the course of Kelly's pregnancy and subsequent birth of Deborah Michelle Ferguson. Privately, Kelly thought it was because she was a dog personality while Vanessa was a cat.[21]


  1. Eruption, pgs. 10-11, HC.
  2. Ibid, pgs. 11-19.
  3. Ibid, pg. 60-66
  4. Ibid, pgs. 44-45.
  5. Ibid, pgs. 102-108.
  6. Ibid, pgs. 117-120.
  7. Ibid, pgs. 142-156.
  8. Ibid, pgs. 205-209.
  9. Ibid, pgs. 224-228.
  10. Ibid, pgs. 242-247.
  11. Ibid, pgs. 293-294.
  12. Ibid, pgs. 342-344.
  13. Ibid, pgs. 408-412.
  14. All Fall Down, pgs. 38, 167, HC.
  15. Eruption, pgs. 408-409.
  16. All Fall Down, pgs. 49-52.
  17. Ibid, pgs. 89-96.
  18. Ibid, pgs. 133-136.
  19. Ibid, pg. 225.
  20. Ibid, pgs. 171-188.
  21. Ibid, pgs. 292-295.

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