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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences

Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson

Biography:  Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson is a College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Professor in the Marine Science Program and Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences at the University of South Carolina.  Her research focuses on the biogeochemical cycling of phosphorus and carbon and how these elements are influenced by both natural and anthropogenic processes.  She is a diverse scientist, with expertise ranging from radiochemistry to harmful algal bloom toxins and is highly regarded for her cross-disciplinary research.  Over the past two decades, Dr. Benitez-Nelson has authored or co-authored more than 90 papers, including lead author publications in the journals Science and Nature. She has been continuously supported by substantial, multi-year research and education grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among others.  Her many research honors include the Early Career Award in Oceanography from the American Geophysical Union in 1996, Fulbright and Marie Curie Fellowships in 2008, and was named a National Academies of Science/Humboldt Foundation Kavli Fellow in 2012.  Dr. Benitez-Nelson is also highly regarded as a teacher and mentor, having received the National Faculty of the Year Award from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars in 2005 and the University of South Carolina’s Mungo Teaching Award in 2006.  In 2013, Dr. Benitez-Nelson was named the University of South Carolina’s Distinguished Professor of the Year and in 2014 received the Sulzman Award for Excellence in Education and Mentoring from the Biogeosciences Section of the American Geophysical Union.  At the University of South Carolina, Dr. Benitez-Nelson served as both the Undergraduate Director and Director of USC’s Marine Science Program, doubling undergraduate enrollment and increasing the number of faculty.  She is regularly called upon by national and international scientific and policy agencies for her expertise and currently serves or has served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Geoscience Directorate of NSF, the EPA Science Advisory Board, and the National Academy of Science’s Ocean Studies Board.  Dr. Benitez-Nelson earned a B.S. in chemistry and oceanography from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in oceanography from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Joint Program in 1999. 

Education and 
Research Experience

Current Research  

Funded Grants 

Teaching and Advising

Meet the Lab (2015): Victoria Garefino (above), Emily Palmer, Kelly McCabe, Meryssa Downer, Blaire Umhau, Shep Schroer, Claudia Benitez-Nelson, Sunny Shi, Daniel Wade, Doug Bell & Billy Moore (above)

Mentoring and Outreach 

Awards and 
Fellowships Received 


Invited Talks

Interested in Marine Science? Check out these websites:

USC Marine Science Program

Women in Oceanography

Minorities in Aquatic Sciences


Marine Science Program & Department of Earth & Ocean Sciences
University of South Carolina
EWS 408, 701 Sumter St.
Columbia, SC 29208

Email: cbnelson at
Phone: (803) 777-0018
Fax: (803) 777-6610


Meet the Lab (2013): Doug Bell, Drew Kelly, Wendy Plessinger, Meryssa Downer, Annie Opseth,
Claudia Benitez-Nelson, Billy Moore, Eric Tappa, & Mariela Monge (who overslept that day!)


Meet the Lab (2012): Back Row: Billy Moore (in China), Mariela Monge, Annie Opseth,
Claudia Benitez-Nelson, Xiayan Ye, Erin McParland (with Cocky); Front Row: Meryssa Downer,
Melissa Bennett, Wendy Plessinger, Sharmila Pal, and Eric Tappa

Meet the Lab (2011): Back Row: Eric Tappa, Chris Burrell, Annie Opseth. 
Middle Row: Claudia Benitez-Nelson, Sharmila Pal.
Front Row: Melissa Bennett, Wendy Plessinger, Billy Moore, Erin McParland Not Pictured (Clarissa Anderson). 



Meet the Lab (Jan 2010): Melissa Bennett, Chris Burrell, Sharmila Pal, Claudia Benitez-Nelson,
Emily Sekula Wood, Wendy Plessinger, Eric Tappa (Not pictured: Billy Moore). 

Meet the group (Dec 2008): Gabrielle Lyons, Renee Styles, Suzanne Dubois, Melanie Irwin,
Billy Moore, and Susan Herron (Emily was at Exxon.....)!

Meet the group (Dec. 2007): Meet the students: Emily Sekula, Gabrielle Lyons,
Suzanne Dubois, and Susan Herron. Susan wins first place at Discovery Day 2007 (and a Magellan)!

Meet the group (Dec. 2006): Kanchan Maiti, Emily Sekula, Renee Styles, Susan Herron,
Claudia Benitez-Nelson, Suzanne Dubois, Gabbi Lyons (and the kids). Melanie Irwin and Billy Moore not pictured. 


The lab in December 2005


The Lab in June 2005


The Lab in May 2004 (CBN & RMS are both pregnant!)



The Lab in July 2003


The Lab in September 2002