Yen Yi Loo

MSc, BSc (Hons)

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Doctoral Candidate - Doctor of Philosophy


I am a PhD student investigating the vocal development patterns a New Zealand wren, the rifleman or tītipounamu (Acanthisitta chloris), using bioacoustic techniques and behaviour observations. Songbirds have long been used as a model for the human language learning system. However, the literature focuses on the mechanism and less so on the evolutionary aspects of vocal learning. Studying the vocal learning ability of the rifleman will provide us with important insights into the origin of vocal learning in passerines.

I also have a background in ecology and environmental science prior to my current position. My skillset includes statistics, GIS, ecological and acoustic analyses. My Masters research in Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) investigated the partial migration patterns of three south American tyrant-flycatchers using citizen science data and species distribution modelling techniques. My Honours research in Nottingham University (Malaysia) examined the impact of land conversion by documenting the functional diversity of birds in plantations in a peatland habitat. I developed my interest in ornithology through a lot of reading and observing birds in Malaysia and while travelling. 

Research | Current

Understanding the origin of vocal learning in birds using New Zealand’s missing link, the rifleman or tītipounamu.

The recent re-ordering of the avian phylogenetic tree has generated a new, alternative hypothesis indicating that vocal learning may have evolved in the common ancestor of parrots and songbirds. A key taxa for addressing this question are the New Zealand wrens as they are now the link between these two clades. My research will focus on the rifleman, which is one of the two extant species in the NZ wrens. I will quantify the vocal ontogeny, seasonal variation and functions of calls. I collaborate closely with Ines Moran who focuses on the kinship aspect of this species. The collective evidences gathered from these research projects will determine if the rifleman follows the criteria of a vocal learner or non-learner and reopen the question of the vocal learning origins in birds.

Postgraduate supervision

My supervisors:

Dr. Kristal Cain

Dr. Margaret Stanley


MSc (Distinctions) - Bird Conservation, Manchester Metropoliton University, United Kingdom

BSc (Honours) - Environmental Science, University of Nottingham, Malaysia

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Tan, C. K. W., Lee, J. W., Hii, A., Loo, Y. Y., Campos-Arceiz, A., & MacDonald, D. W. (2018). The effect of using games in teaching conservation. PeerJ, 6.10.7717/peerj.4509
  • Lim, T. W., Quinton, D. P., Solana-Mena, A., Loo, Y. Y., Loke, V. P. W., Angah, R., ... Tauhid, C. (2017). Short Notes – Temiar Bird Names. Malayan Nature Journal, Special Edition, 21-24.
  • Loo, Y. Y., Billa, L., & Singh, A. (2015). Effect of climate change on seasonal monsoon in Asia and its impact on the variability of monsoon rainfall in Southeast Asia. Geoscience Frontiers, 6 (6), 817-823. 10.1016/j.gsf.2014.02.009


Contact details

Office hours

Mondays to Fridays

9:30 AM - 6:00 PM

Primary office location

COMMERCE A - Bldg 114
Level G, Room G02
New Zealand

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