Animal Behavior (BIOL 3700)

This course is offered as a standard fall semester course (BIOL 3700), or as Maymester study abroad course in New Zealand and Australia (BIOL 3720L)  in conjunction with a course on Sustaining Human Societies and the Natural Environment (FANR 4271).  For more information on the Maymester offering, click here.


Course Goals: Behavior is one the most important and interesting aspects of animal biology.  Behaviors permit flexibility that allows animals to respond rapidly to environmental changes.  This course exposes students to the broad field of animal behavior.  Students will understand the historical foundations of the field, scientific approaches to the study of animal behavior, current theories and evidence for a broad range of behavioral topics, and applications of behavioral sciences to other fields such as animal training, wildlife conservation and management, child development and education, psychology and medicine.  Behavioral ecology [the economics of behavioral strategies] and the evolution of behaviors as adaptations are re-occurring themes interwoven through all topics discussed. 


To accomplish the course goals each student will:

  • Analyze theories and evidence for understanding behaviors as traits that evolve;

  • Use fundamental techniques to quantify behavior;

  • Quantify, analyze and report data on animal behavior;

  • Apply theories and evidence to management scenarios, and defend their arguments.


This is an intensive, professional course, with a significant structured and independent workload. Students from the most years rated the workload for this course as moderate-heavy, with significant consistent workload outside of class.  To help manage the course demands, all assignments are given well in advance.  We place a large emphasis on developing effective writing and understanding the nature of scientific evidence and its application to arguments.  Writing is one of the most effective ways to learn, and practice in writing effectively benefits all students who take this course.  Writing tasks focuses on (1) writing synthetic short answers from readings, (2) short evidentiary essays, and (3) elements of scientific writing that interact with the presentation and critique of data.  Writing assignments are moderate in size [there are no term papers], and students will have opportunities to critique and revise select assignments.