People are fascinated by animal behavior, as evidenced, for example, by the popularity of animal behavior in nature films and television. The study of animal behavior is an interdisciplinary effort which brings together biological and social scientists at the forefront of several important modern challenges in the sciences. Complex behavior is at the core of learning, memory, and many of the problems studied by the biomedical community. Environmental contaminants such as endocrine disruptors have their main influence by impacting reproductive behavior and development. Environmental stressors such as crowding can influence social interactions which in turn affect which animals are able to mate and the genetic diversity of endangered species. More recently, as we try to understand the developmental translation between gene sequences and adult phenotypes, researchers are relying on animal behavior to provide powerful examples of complex traits. In this course, we explore different forms of animal behavior and the ways in which they are studied.
Some goals of this course are:
The course will meet twice weekly. Each week, there will be one lecture period in which we discuss readings from the textbook and elsewhere about animal behavior research. The second lecture period will be devoted to special events, including nature movies, guest lectures and exams. In addition to the usual midterm and final examinations, we will make use of several innovative teaching tools: