OSU Oceanographer Receives White House ‘Early Career’ Award


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Kelly Benoit-Bird, an assistant professor in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, has been honored by the White House with a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

She is one of 56 researchers nationally honored with the award, the nation’s highest honor for professionals at the beginning of their independent research careers.

Benoit-Bird was nominated for the award by the Office of Naval Research, which last year presented her with its 2005 Young Investigator Award. She received an award of $396,600 from the ONR to purchase scientific echo sounders with acoustic frequencies that allow her to study marine animals ranging from zooplankton to sperm whales.

An expert in marine ecological communities, Benoit-Bird frequently uses acoustics to study the relationships between different species in marine environments.

“We think of the world so two-dimensionally,” she said. “Yet everything in the ocean is 3-D. A plant that grows in the ocean may have drifted miles away with hours. Animals that feed on the plant move up and down in the water column. The interactions are amazingly complex.”

Benoit-Bird has several different ongoing research efforts that take her from the Pacific Northwest to Monterey Bay to the waters off Hawaii. A faculty member at OSU since 2003, she is a graduate of Brown University and earned a doctorate in oceanography from the University of Hawaii, also in 2003.