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Module BNS-3004:
Advances in Behaviour

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Richard Holland

Overall aims and purpose

Animal behaviour is a subject that challenges those who study it. Rarely does research on animal behaviour result is established facts or clear unequivocal answers. Often two researchers will interpret the data in a different way. New data continuously challenges our perceptions of how and why animals behave the way they do. The study of animal behaviour at its frontier thus requires an ability to think critically about theories, hypotheses and data and make judgements on them based on the weight of evidence. This module thus aims to test the ability of students to think critically, develop ideas independently, record and analyse data and communicate what they have learnt by creating a research project to investigate an unanswered question in animal behaviour. Students should finish the module with an in-depth understanding of advanced topics in animal behaviour and an ability to demonstrate critical thinking and independent learning.

Course content

In the first half of the module, we will explore some current topics in animal behaviour including (but not limited to) animal learning and cognition, animal movement, animal personality, and human behaviour. These topics have been selected because they are “open ended”: research is ongoing and there are still questions to be resolved. There will be a practical session on analysis of movement data using state of the art tracking methods, including analysis of elephant ranging behaviour. This will allow you to understand how to analyse data using a modern method that has seen significant advances in our understanding of animal behaviour. In the second half of the module students will research a topic in animal behaviour to develop a research project proposal. There will be workshops on how to develop ideas alongside the lectures, discussion sessions and a conference at which the student will present a poster on their project to obtain feedback for the final research project proposal assignment.

Assessment Criteria


Awareness of the fundamentals underlying the science, based on lecture material and practical sessions, but with limited or absent analytical ability. Some evidence of lifelong learning skills but with organisational or group-working problems.


A good grasp of the fundamentals and demonstration of critical thought with evidence of additional reading. An ability to present a coherent argument with clarity. A good appreciation of the main approaches employed in the study of animal behaviour and the ability to critically assess their suitability in a given situation. Good evidence of lifelong learning skills, demonstrating ability to work effectively with others and manage deadlines.


An excellent grasp of the fundamentals of the science and demonstration of the ability to analyse, critically assess, and present a coherent reasoned argument based on information from a variety of sources. Demonstration of original thinking and advanced problem solving when evaluating and implementing behavioural research methods. Additional evidence of lifelong learning skills such as ability to adapt to change and motivate others.

Learning outcomes

  1. Engage with the essential facts, major concepts, principles and theories relating to animal behaviour. Demonstrate and apply this subject-specific knowledge and understanding.

  2. Demonstrate the ability to read and use appropriate literature, with a full and critical understanding.

  3. Demonstrate the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (undertaking directed reading, time management, working to a deadline)

  4. Show an appreciation of the methods used in the study of animal behavior and apply scientific methodology to create a research project proposal.

  5. Demonstrate presentation skills at a scientific conference.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
CLASS TEST Movement data practical

Online test based on movement data practical, open 6am-10pm, 2 hour time limit to complete test once started.

INDIVIDUAL PRESENTATION Conference Individual Poster Presentation

Poster presentation of research project

ESSAY Research Project Proposal

Research project proposal


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Project poster presentation, to present the research project idea in a poster format, to gain experience of presenting data and to obtain feedback on the proposal for the final assesment.

Practical classes and workshops

Movement data practical, to allow students to experience hands on cutting edge data analysis techniques for studying animal movement (examples include Elephant ranging and migration in birds).

Private study

Outside of timetabled teaching hours on this module, you will be expected to spend time researching a chosen subject area to work up to a research project proposal which will include literature searching, researching study design from core texts and other studies, data input, presentation and analysis.


The lectures on this module are designed to give students background knowledge for their presentation and research project proposal, or to inspire students to explore the linkage of concepts between studies and disciplines.


5 workshops with activities to help develope ideas for a research proposal


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

  • Engagement with current developments in the biosciences and their application.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Engage in debate and/or discussion with specialists and non-specialists using appropriate language.
  • Undertake field and/or laboratory studies of living systems.
  • Undertake practical work to ensure competence in basic experimental skills.


Resource implications for students

Nothing to pay

Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: