Robert Rice's research centers around the intersection of humankind's most intimate relation with the earth—agricultural production—and the impact this has upon physical and social landscapes, with special attention to environmental and social change. His work is directed toward land use studies related to migratory bird habitat. Rice's approach draws upon agroecology and incorporates land use practices and policy in Latin America and the U.S., with a focus on agroforestry systems and their linkages, impacts and benefits within the ecological and social realms.

From a conservation perspective, Rice's work focuses on the sustainability dimensions of a range of production systems. Some of the subjects addressed include the global and local transformations occurring in the world's coffee sector, economic benefits related to silvo-pastoral systems and the potential habitat characteristics of a variety of managed lands. Certification systems developed for conservation goals have also been a subject of Rice's research.

In the late 1990's, Rice worked with his late colleague, Dr. Russ Greenberg, to create the Bird Friendly coffee initiative. One of Rice's major communication and outreach efforts has been the management of this program, which now has a global reach from coffee areas in Latin America and Africa to consumers in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Working within the specialty coffee community, from researching peasant producers in remote rural areas of Latin America to attending annual trade show exhibitions, has generated an array of windows into which Rice's research efforts have ventured.

Rice earned his PhD in the Department of Geography at the University of California, Berkeley in 1990. His B.A. in English came from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1974, and he obtained a Master's Degree in Geography at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1982. Rice came to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in 1995.

Coffee roasting at home—in a backyard shed he built expressly for this purpose—occupies some of Rice's out-of-office hours, as does a love of making herb vinegars, homemade tonic and a general exploratory philosophy toward cooking. Nearly fluent in Spanish from living in Peru as a child, he loves discovering all things etymological. Rice also fancies himself an undiscovered and underdeveloped lyricist of country songs ("fancies" is the operative word here).



Smithsonian scientists are working with coffee farmers to conserve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.