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Bernadette Rigley

Research Fellow
B.T., SUNY Cobleskill; Ph.D., George Mason University (expected 2025)

Bernadette Rigley is a doctoral research fellow at Smithsonian’s Virginia Working Landscapes. Her dissertation focuses on behavioral ecology and conservation of grassland birds, one of the most imperiled taxonomic group of birds in North America. Rigley collaborates closely with the American Farmland Trust and colleagues at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Smithsonian Movement of Life. She takes an interdisciplinary approach to research that is geared toward identifying primary drivers of decline for grassland birds and conservation strategies that promote their recovery.

Rigley works with cattle producers to study how regenerative grazing and haying systems effect the reproductive success of grassland birds. She also addresses knowledge gaps in the full annual cycle of the eastern meadowlark and bobolink. She integrates new tracking technology to reveal their migratory behaviors and to measure survival and dispersal during the elusive post-fledging life stage.

Rigley's projects include:

Rigley earned a bachelor's degree in wildlife management in 2016. She enjoyed life as an itinerant field biologist for several years, studying avian community response to silviculture in Virginia, winter survival and movements of prothonotary warblers in Panama, and breeding ecology of endemic loggerhead shrikes in the Channel Islands, to name a few. Rigley also completed a small tenure in the private sector as a consulting biologist. During that time, she conducted surveys for threatened and endangered species and drafted documents for review under the National Environmental Policy Act. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.