Advances and Methods in Animal Behaviour

Module titleAdvances and Methods in Animal Behaviour
Module codePSYM205
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Lisa Leaver (Convenor)

Professor Natalie Hempel de Ibarra (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module provides as its main focus an overview of the main concepts, methods and advances in animal behaviour research. During seminar sessions, you will actively engage in the scientific discussion of a diverse range of topics cutting across a broad profile of animal behaviour as a modern and interdisciplinary research discipline. Working both independently and in small groups, you will regularly participate in class discussions and group work, research literature to construct essays publications in two out of four topic areas, and prepare presentations and quizzes for fellow students based on selected key publications in the remaining two topic areas.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims to acquaint you with cutting edge research in animal behaviour. You will acquire a thorough understanding of four key areas: behavioural physiology; behavioural ecology; the cognitive basis of behaviour; and how a theoretical understanding of behaviour is applied to practical issues of welfare, zoo research etc. Over the course of the module, you will learn how to evaluate critically both the research itself and the directions in which these fields are moving.

Through attending the sessions and completing the assessments, you will further develop the following academic and professional skills:

  • critical analysis (understanding outcomes, interpretation of data and methods, broad application of theory, using data to support or refute theory, comparing and contrasting multiple outcomes)
  • problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, showing entrepreneurial awareness, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems)
  • managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities)
  • time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group)
  • collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose), and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats, persuading others of the importance and relevance of your views, responding positively and effectively to questions).

The majority of sessions are taught by staff members with specific expertise in the subject areas of interest. The module thus provides the students with research-led teaching as the topics are explored by the teaching staff in their own research. These skills will in turn assist your own research in the context of the Research Apprenticeship module (PSYM210).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe extensively current research in animal behaviour
  • 2. Evaluate critically research in animal behaviour
  • 3. Apply research in animal behaviour to practical problems

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Ask good research questions and construct good theoretical answers
  • 5. Command an extensive variety of research skills to address research questions
  • 6. Demonstrate a thorough working knowledge of a range of observational and experimental research techniques
  • 7. Conduct high quality empirical research
  • 8. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively, fluently and professionally by written, graphic and oral means

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Deliver short presentations making use of modern visual aids
  • 10. Integrate complex material as you develop critical arguments
  • 11. Debate competently arguments presented in class in open discussion

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Indicative structure of topics is as follows:

Behavioural Physiology

  • Neural mechanisms of behaviour
  • Animal senses and sensory ecology
  • Learning and behaviour
  • Genetic and physiological basis of behaviour

Behavioural Ecology

  • Introduction to concepts and experimental methods in behavioural ecology
  • Life history strategies and game theory
  • Sexual selection and mating
  • Reproductive success and parental care

Animal Cognition

A selection from the following topics:

  • Physical cognition
  • Memory
  • Discrimination, pattern recognition and concepts
  • Spatial cognition
  • Individual and group recognition
  • Social learning and imitation
  • Consciousness and theory of mind

Applied Animal Behaviour

  • Behaviour as an indicator of welfare
  • Managing welfare
  • Managing group dynamics of housed animals
  • Issues of conservation

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching60Seminar sessions (20 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study240Preparation for seminar sessions; essay and presentation writing; literature research for essay and presentation; development of two quizzes for the presentations


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class discussions and debatesWeekly1-8, 10-11Oral
Creation of a quiz for classmatesOne quiz consisting of 10 multiple choice questions1, 3, 8Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation 1 (term 1)12.515 minutes1-11Written
Presentation 2 (term 2)12.515 minutes1-11Written
In-class quizzes (16 short quizzes)510 minutes per quiz1-3Oral
Essay 1 (term 1)353000 words1-8, 10Written
Essay 2 (term 2)353000 words1-8, 10Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation 1Presentation1-11March Ref/Def
Presentation 2Presentation1-11September Ref/Def
In-class quizzesQuizzes1-3August Ref/Def
Essay 1Essay 11-8, 10August Ref/Def
Essay 2Essay 21-8, 10August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The module mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit further assessments based on the table above. The module mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Danchin, E., Giraldeau, L-A. and Cezilly, F. 2008. Behavioural Ecology. Oxford University Press.
  • Krebs, J.R., Davies, N.B. & West, S.A. 2012. An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology. 4th Edition. Blackwell Science.
  • Shettleworth, S. J. 2010. Evolution, Cognition and Behavior. 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.
  • Pearce, J. (2008) Animal learning and cognition. 3rd edition. Psychology Press.
  • Wasserman, E.A. and Zentall T.R. (2009) Comparative cognition. Oxford University Press.
  • P. Simmons and D. Young. 2010. Nerve Cells and Animal Behaviour, 3rd edition. Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • J. Alcock (2009) Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach. 9th edition.
  • Hill et al. (2008, 2nd edition) Animal Physiology. Sinauer / Palgrave-McMillan.
  • T.J. Carew (2005) Behavioural neuroscience. Sinauer / Palgrave Macmillan
  • Young R J 2003 Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Hosey, G., Melfi, V. and Pankhurst, S.2009. Zoo Animals: Behaviour, Management and Welfare. Oxford     University Press.
  • Clemmons, J.R. and Buchholz, R. (eds) Behavioural Approaches to Conservation in the Wild. 1997.Cambridge University Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

You will be given reading lists of papers from scientific journals to prepare for each seminar meeting and for independent study.

Key words search

Methods, animal behaviour

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date