Module BSX-2018:
Behavioural Ecology

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Graeme Shannon

Overall aims and purpose

This module takes an evolutionary approach to the study of animal behaviour, with the aim of stimulating a questioning approach to the observation of the natural world. We will observe spectacular, subtle or sometimes surprising behaviours to investigate how animals across a range of taxa increase their chances of survival and reproduction. We will also consider the role of the environment and genes in shaping behaviour, and investigate how social interactions affect individual behavioural decisions. Using practical studies on shore crabs and guppies, we will conduct our own research on animal behaviour, and this will be underpinned by theory which will be introduced in lectures. The module aims to enable students to learn key concepts in behavioural research, and to provide a foundation for developing their own specialist interest in the third year module “Advances in Animal Behaviour” (BNS-3004). By the end of the module, we would expect students to be able to:- o Explain how evolutionary theory can be applied to behavioural mechanisms. o Demonstrate understanding of the key concepts in behavioural studies. o Understand the evolution of a range of behaviours across the animal kingdom. o Apply behavioural theory to explain similarities and differences in behaviour within and between different taxa and life-history stages. o Design and undertake practical work to ask questions about animal behaviour. o Test hypotheses and critically evaluate results.

Course content

The module will cover key aspects of animal behaviour and will include: Theory on the development of animal behaviour, learning and cognition, social behaviour, economic decision making, sexual selection, predation, mating systems, sexual conflict and parental care. A considerable emphasis will also be placed on practical observation of animal behaviour and how this can be used to frame and test hypotheses to enhance our understanding of the field.

Assessment Criteria

threshold

Basic understanding of scientific methodology. Basic understanding of topics in animal behaviour, and evolutionary concepts and principles relating to animal behaviour. Be able to plan, execute and write-up an independent pieces of practical work, in which qualities such as time management, team-working skills, problem solving and independence are evident, as well as interpretation and critical awareness of the quality of evidence.

good

In depth understanding of scientific methodology. Enhanced understanding of topics in animal behaviour, and evolutionary concepts and principles relating to animal behaviour. Good ability to plan, execute and write-up an independent piece of practical work (Guppy practical), in which qualities such as time management, team-working skills, problem solving and independence are evident, as well as enhanced interpretation and critical awareness of the quality of evidence.

excellent

In depth understanding of scientific methodology including evidence of extensive additional reading. Excellent understanding of topics in animal behaviour, and evolutionary concepts and principles relating to animal behaviour. Excellent ability to plan, execute and write-up an independent piece of practical work (Guppy practical), in which qualities such as time management, team-working skills, problem solving and independence are evident, as well as enhanced interpretation and critical awareness of the quality of evidence.

Learning outcomes

  1. Design and undertake practical work focusing on animal behaviour, test hypotheses and critically evaluate results.

  2. Show broad knowledge of different behaviours exhibited across taxa and life-history stages.

  3. Demonstrate understanding of the key concepts in behavioural ecology.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Crab Report 35
Bird Practical 25
End of Module Exam 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Workshop

1 revision session by core staff.

1
Laboratory

Observation of crab behaviour and morphology in the laboratory. This practical will provide students with feedback on hypothesis formulation, report writing and data presentation to build confidence and enhance research skills.

3
Laboratory

Computer-based practical investigating vigilance behaviour in birds. Students will get practice in framing and testing hypotheses, experimental design, observing animal behaviour, recording, analysing and interpreting data. The assessment will be analysed using an online test.

3
Lecture

18 lectures by core staff

18
Private study 175

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: