Ruth Bennett is a research ecologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Migratory Bird Center, which is dedicated to understanding and conserving the grand phenomenon of bird migration. Bennett focuses on optimizing the conservation of birds and other wildlife in working landscapes, especially coffee and cocoa growing regions of Latin America.

Bennett’s projects include:

  • Improving the environmental and social outcomes of the Bird Friendly coffee certification
  • Identifying which tree species provide the best resources for birds in coffee agroecosystems
  • Understanding coffee farmer decisions about shade tree management
  • Establishing standards for Bird Friendly cocoa
  • Developing conservation plans for declining migratory birds during their nonbreeding life stages

As part of the interdisciplinary Bird Friendly team, Bennett is working to build a Bird Friendly standard that applies to multiple crop types and provides conservation outcomes at both farm and landscape scales. She is also an expert on the nonbreeding ecology and conservation of the golden-winged warbler and, as an active member of the golden-winged warbler working group, led the development of a conservation plan for the species. Bennett continues to collaborate on international conservation planning for migratory birds. She recently helped launch a Bird Friendly Coalition to bring together market-based conservation initiatives across the hemisphere.

Bennett developed a love of migratory birds and coffee agriculture while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras at the Universidad Nacional de Agricultura. There she helped implement a biological education program for elementary schools within National Park buffer zones. She also found a population of overwintering female golden-winged warblers, which she studied for a master's degree in applied ecology at Michigan Technological University in 2012 and a doctorate in applied ecology from Cornell University in 2018.

In her spare time, Bennett enjoys bird watching, hiking and running around with her dog in big fields.

Research Interests

Avian ecology, biodiversity conservation, Bird Friendly certification, agroforestry, sustainable agriculture


Cocoa Agroforestry Library

The Cocoa Agroforestry Library brings together all available scientific literature on cocoa agroforestry to support sustainable cocoa implementation and research.