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Former doctoral student wins $500,000 'genius grant'

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
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Posted: Oct 4, 2010

Whitlow Au and Kelly Benoit-Bird at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America meeting.
Whitlow Au and Kelly Benoit-Bird at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America meeting.
Kelly Benoit-Bird, who earned her PhD in Zoology from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2003 and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology in 2004, has won a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” of $500,000. 
 
The money will be paid quarterly over five years to Benoit-Bird, who is one of 23 recipients of the national award that recognizes “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”
 
The 34-year-old marine biologist, who is an associate professor at Oregon State University, wrote her PhD dissertation at UH Mānoa on “Dynamics of the Hawaiian Mesopelagic Boundary Community and their effects on Predator Foraging.” She won the half-million-dollar grant for “using sophisticated acoustic engineering technology to explore the previously invisible behavior of ocean creatures and address long-unanswered questions about the structure and behavior of food chains.”
 
Whitlow W.L. Au of the Marine Mammal Research Program at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island vividly remembers Benoit-Bird’s research on spinner dolphin foraging in the Hawaiian Islands.  “Kelly was able to conduct an unprecedented amount of important research while at UH Mānoa,” said Au, who served as Benoit-Bird’s PhD faculty advisor. “Her research here led to 12 new important discoveries and resulted in 22 papers published in scientific journals.”