Note: For the time being I am removing this course from my roster of courses offered; although I have enjoyed teaching this class and I believe it offers students some valuable content, I just do not have enough room in my teaching schedule to maintain and keep offering this course. I am still excited about this topic and would love to explore it through a three-credit course that looked at both play and performance in animal behavior.
Behavioral ecologists look at the responses of animals to their environment from an evolutionary perspective: they ask the questions “how did this behavior evolve?” and “how does this behavior contribute to survival and reproduction?”. In this course we will consider a wide variety of behaviors (group formation & social behavior, predator-prey interactions, foraging decisions, mate choice, parental care, life history strategies, territoriality, altruism) as the product of evolution. After becoming familiar with the methods and techniques of behavioral ecology, students will complete their own scientific and creative inquiry into animal behavior.
Who Might Be Interested In This Course?
This course is aimed at highly-motivated students with a keen interest in explaining animal behavior. We will not only be surveying the proximate and ultimate mechanisms responsible for a great variety of behaviors, but we will also spend the semester building up an experimentally-based research project. Because this research project is the major component of the grade in the course, in order to be successful you must have the ability to work independently. Behavioral Ecology requires a significant amount of reading (see the syllabus below for details), so you should be prepared to allocate at least four hours a week to reading for this course. The research project will also require a large investment of time during particular periods of the semester. If you are simply looking to fulfill your Math & Science requirement, I recommend easier courses such as MSCI-260 (Evolution) or MSCI-270 (Ecology); however, if you are looking for an in-depth course that gives you the chance to do real research into animal behavior, you will be rewarded for your effort in Behavioral Ecology.
What Background Should I Have Before I Take This Course?
This course assumes that you have a basic understanding of both ecology and evolutionary biology and strong understanding of high school-level biology. It is advised (though not required) that you take either MSCI-260 (Evolution) or MSCI-270 (Ecology) before taking this course.
You can check out exemplary Midterm Papers and Final Projects on the Behavioral Ecology student work page.
This course maintains an Open Information Environment.