One of 23 MacArthur “Genius” grant recipients this year! Way to go Marine Science!
Benoit-Bird, 34, studies the interrelationships of animals in different marine environments, using acoustics and other sophisticated technologies. Her innovative uses of sonar in tracking marine creatures from Humboldt squid to spinner dolphins have led to new discoveries about their feeding behavior, movements and even communication.
“This is a well-deserved recognition of a tremendous young scientist who not only is creative, but is an exceptionally well-rounded person,” said Mark Abbott, dean of the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences. “Kelly has been instrumental in discovering new types of behaviors and structures within marine ecosystems and her observations of these actions occur in time and space scales never before seen.
Benoit-Bird learned of her own recognition a week ago and was pledged to secrecy by the MacArthur Foundation. The experience, she said, has been “surreal.”
“The foundation called me at 7:30 in the morning and I didn’t answer my phone right away – I need my sleep,” said Benoit-Bird, who is nearly seven months pregnant. “They called back again at 8 a.m. and when I finally realized they were serious, it still took a while to sink in. The last thing they said was, “don’t expect to hear from us again.’”
The fellowship includes the “no strings attached” stipend, which is designed to provide seed money for the recipients’ intellectual, social and artistic endeavors. Benoit-Bird said the five-year support would allow her to “take some risks in my research that otherwise would not be possible.”
OSU President Edward J. Ray said Benoit-Bird, who is the first member of her family to attend college, exemplifies the type of bright, ambitious young faculty members attracted to the university’s growing reputation in the Earth sciences.