Current students:

Tas Vámos, PhD Candidate, 2019 – School of Biological Sciences (SBS), Victoria University of Wellington (VUW)

Tas is investigating toutouwai spatial memory and examining how it influences caching behaviour.

Regan MacKinlay, PhD candidate, 2018 – SBS, VUW

Regan’s research investigates individual variation in toutouwai nesting and foraging behaviors. Ultimately, he plans to draw on cognitive theory to try to promote adaptive, and deter maladaptive behavioral variation.

Daniel Donoghue, PhD candidate, 2017 – SBS, VUW

Daniel’s research examines whether and how behavioural innovations can be socially transmitted in kea and kākā populations.


Nalini Singh, BSc Honours candidate, 2019 – SBS, VUW

Nalini is investigating supplementary feeding in kākā and how it impacts behaviour.

Benjamin Rothenbühler, MSc candidate, 2019

Ben is carrying out toutouwai personality and learning research towards his Masters at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland.

Previous students:

Caroline Warren (Research Intern), 2017

After completing an undergraduate degree back home in the States, Caroline joined our research group as an intern. From September until December 2017 she monitored the survival and reproduction of the robin study population.

Leonie Weltgen (MSc), 2016 – 2017

Leonie Weltgen’s completed a research internship as part of her Masters degree at the Freie Universität Berlin. Leonie’s research investigated whether young North Island robin fledglings were capable of socially learning how to use a new foraging technique.

Chris Woolley (Summer Scholar), 2016 – 2017

Chris is a current graduate student in SBS at VUW and in 2016 he was awarded a Summer Scholarship to study parent-offspring social learning dynamics. During the project he developed a new paradigm for studying social learning in robins.

Latu Clark (MSc), 2015 – 2016

Latu completed her MSc thesis, ‘Brood Division and the Ontogeny of Caching Behaviour in the North Island robin (Petroica longipes)’ in SBS at VUW. Here’s how she described her research:

“I am studying parent-offspring interactions in the North Island robin during the 2015/2016 breeding season. I hope to better understand the factors affecting parental care decisions in the lead up to brood division (which occurs when chicks leave the nest). Additionally, as North Island robins are one of only a few Southern Hemisphere species which cache food, a second aim of my thesis is to examine the ontogeny of food-caching in North Island robins and evaluate the role of parents in this developmental process.”

Regan MacKinlay (BSc, MConBio), 2015 – 2016

In Regan’s final BSc year in SBS at VUW he completed a research project examining the relationship between song complexity, caching and inhibitory control in robins. In 2016, Regan carried out another independent research project as part of his Masters in Conservation Biology. For this project he investigated the relationship between territory size, foraging efficiency and reproductive success in robins.

Julia Loepelt (PhD), 2013 – 2016

Marie Courteville (MSc), 2015

Marie completed a research internship as part of her Masters at a Gembloux Agro Bio-Tech University in Belgium. Here’s what she had to say about her project:

“Hi, I’m Marie and I’m in my final year of a masters in Environmental Engineering, specialising in restoration and conservation. For my thesis, I’m studying the dispersal behaviour of the North Island robin. If birds are dispersing outside of the Sanctuary, my research will help inform how management of pest species in the Wellington region can be improved. I hadn’t even recovered from the jet lag and I was already in love with these birds!”

Curious robins (courtesy of M. Courteville)

Curious robins (courtesy of M. Courteville)

Undergraduate volunteers:

A small team of enthusiastic SBS undergraduates helped collect breeding season data in 2014/2015: Anni Brumby, Audrey Rendle, Kate Irving, Matt Boivin, Jamie Brathwaite and Kassie Sydow