Study Abroad and Exchanges



BIO3044 : Behavioural Ecology

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


Behavioural ecology aims to assess the effects of evolutionary and environmental factors on animal behaviour. This module will investigate the selective pressures that can lead to different adaptations in different ecological environments and asks why animals behave in the way they do: What factors influence where and what an animal chooses to eat? Why do some animals mate for life whilst others are promiscuous? Can an animal be optimistic or pessimistic and how does this affect its survivability?

By studying behaviour we can also determine the welfare of an individual and use this to assess potential impact on a population and the broader ecological landscape. We will use real life examples of how studying animal behaviour can develop our understanding of animal welfare and how we can use this to determine the most appropriate conservation and management practices.

Outline Of Syllabus

The lectures will focus around wildlife particularly mammals (land and aquatic) and birds with reference to other groups where applicable (e.g. reptiles, fish).
• Introduction: Why is behavioural ecology important?
• Basic physiology underpinning behaviours
• Measures of behaviour and welfare
• Evolution of cognition of behaviour
• Motivation
• Foraging behaviours
• Predators/prey (including communication, physical characteristics, dynamics, interactions)
• Sexual selection (mate choice, polygamy, monogamy)
• Group living (including communication, cooperation, conflict, altruism and parental care)
• Social learning
• Animal personality – differences in species and individuals
• Animal welfare and ethics

• Case studies of measuring behaviour and welfare in the field and captivity
• Case studies of how behavioural monitoring can influence the conservation techniques used to protect a species and environment
• Interpretation of data – issues and challenges

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:301:30Written Examination
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading122:0024:00Directed reading
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study134:3034:30Study of lectures, ReCap, Blackboard
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study120:306:00Exam revision
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study51:005:00Seminar preparation
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study121:0012:00Lecture follow-up
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will provide the basic theoretical framework for the course, and introduce students to current concepts and ideas in behavioural ecology. They will use recent data to support these ideas, and provide students with fundamental knowledge of the subject area.

The seminars will provide students with an opportunity to discuss current issues in behavioural ecology and use what they have learned in the lectures. Seminars will be based upon group problem-solving and will help students to develop fluency in interpreting data within a theoretical framework.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination901A100N/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The written examination is used to assess what the students have learned from lectures, seminars and independent study: knowledge, independent learning and understanding of material relevant to the module; gathering of information from a variety of sources; understanding and application of theoretical concepts; critical evaluation of arguments and evidence; the ability to communicate effectively in writing; understanding and articulation of critical issues in behavioural ecology; understanding and interpretation of primary research data in a wider theoretical context; the ability for critical thought and original approach.

Study Abroad students may request to take their exam before the semester 1 exam period, in which case the format of the paper may differ from that shown in the MOF. Study Abroad students should contact the school to discuss this.

Reading Lists