CORVALLIS - Kelly Benoit-Bird, an assistant professor of biological oceanography in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, is one of 28 scientists to receive the Office of Naval Research's 2005 Young Investigator Award.

Young Investigator awards are designed "to attract to naval research outstanding new faculty members at institutions of higher education, support their research and encourage their teaching and research careers." The awards are for as much as $100,000 a year for three years, with the possibility of additional support for capital equipment or collaborative research with a Navy laboratory.

Benoit-Bird's $396,600 award includes purchase of two scientific echo sounders with acoustic frequencies that extend to smaller organisms and larger animals - from zooplankton to sperm whales - that cannot be reached by other acoustic equipment.

"The echo sounders also expand our depth range to cover substantially deeper waters from 500-600 meters to about 1,200 meters," Benoit-Bird said.

The two new devices, "fancy fish-finders," will extend their reach beyond that of three others aboard a six-week cruise beginning Aug. 1 in California's Monterey Bay. The cruise is part of a large collaborative effort named Layered Organization in the Coastal Ocean (LOCO), which is led by scientists at OSU, the University of Hawaii, the University of Rhode Island and BAE Systems, with participation from several other labs.

Within the last decade, layers of phytoplankton and zooplankton concentrated in a space of a meter or less have been found in coastal waters. The purpose of the cruise is to answer questions about the physics of the layer and how it affects the ecosystem process. Benoit-Bird's work will concentrate on how these layers affect the movements and behavior of fish and fish foraging.

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