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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Biological Sciences : Biology

Undergraduate Course: Behavioural Ecology 3 (BILG09006)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Biological Sciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 9 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe relationship between ecology, animal behaviour, population biology and evolution. Natural selection, reproductive strategies, foraging behaviour (economic decisions, diet, physiology), anti-predator behaviour.
Course description The course provides an introduction to behavioural ecology, exploring the relationship between animal behaviour, ecology, population biology and evolution. It is illustrated with examples from diverse animal species and ecological systems. Students will gain experience of the practical, quantitative and statistical skills required for the study of behavioural ecology.

Introduction. What is behavioural ecology? How do behavioural ecologists see the world? Behaviour involved in maximising survival and reproductive fitness. Optimality. Levels of selection.

Finding a mate. Mating systems and conflicts of interest during reproduction. Sexual selection. Altruistic behaviour, inclusive fitness and kin selection. Co-operative breeding in birds. Eusocial behaviour in insects.

Finding food. Optimality and economic decisions. Currencies and constraints in foraging behaviour. Simple models of prey choice, patch exploitation and forager distribution.

Staying alive. Living in groups. Communication. Predator-Prey interactions - avoiding detection, attack and capture. Arms races in host-parasite interactions. Life histories and reproductive decision-making. Sexual conflict. Applications of Behavioural Ecology.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Biology 2B: Genetics and Evolution (BILG08025) OR Animal Biology 2 (BILG08011) OR Principles of Ecology (ECSC08012)
It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Animal Biology 2 (BILG08011)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Biological Sciences students are automatically eligible to take this course by having completed the compulsory Year 2 courses [Biology 2A (BILG08024), Biology 2B (BILG08025) and Biology 2C (BILG08026)].
Students from other Schools must meet the pre-requisite requirements.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesEquivalent of the courses listed above
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 22, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 27, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 2.5, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 141 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 65 %, Coursework 15 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Degree examination (65%); Vigilance Report (10%); Guest lecture report (5%); Presentation (20%).
Feedback Not entered
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To provide an introduction to the key concepts in behavioural ecology illustrated with examples from diverse animal species and ecological systems. This includes the role of natural selection on reproductive strategies, parental care, foraging behaviour (economic decisions, diet, physiology), anti-predator behaviour, territoriality and use of space, animal communication, group living and associated cooperation and conflict in animal societies.
  2. To provide experience of the practical skills required for the study of behavioural ecology, including experimental design and sampling methods for field and laboratory, hypothesis testing and statistical analysis.
  3. Practical aspects of the course focus on gaining experience and knowledge of general and transferable skills that are key across scientific areas such as critical thinking, data analysis and presentation, scientific writing and science communication.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills The University has identified six groups of abilities (see headings below) that should be developed as part of the University of Edinburgh training experience, and to enhance you employability as a graduate for the 21st Century. These abilities take your skill-base beyond simply academic knowledge and are enhanced at each stage of your degree. They relate to Behavioural Ecology 3 in a number of specific ways, as outlined below.

1) Knowledge and Understanding: Lectures, practicals and data analysis sessions are designed to give you a broad knowledge base in the field of behavioural ecology. This includes a history of the development of the subject, the key theories proposed and a wide range of examples of the classic studies that underlie them ┬┐both how they were done and what they found. This University considers itself to be a research-led Institution and you will be exposed to cutting edge information and ideas being published in the area as you progress through your course. However, you will also develop a sound understanding of how research in the field is conducted, evaluated, analysed, presented and assessed.

2) Research and Enquiry: You will be asked to build on your lecture and practical material and research current developments in the field for critical appraisal and analysis. Understanding how to use Web of Knowledge will be one important aspect en route to surveying current and past scientific arguments and the relative strength of support for competing hypotheses.

3) Personal and Intellectual Autonomy: By reading and preparing materials for practical sessions, you will learn to synthesise your own views, develop reasoned arguments and further refine your scientific judgement. In addition in this course we encourage self-development through use of self-study exercises designed to prepare you with skills that will come later in your course. Such skills will enhance your capacity for life-long and independent learning.

4) Communication: This is a key attribute of all scientists and it is therefore important that you develop skills to interact constructively with others and convey knowledgeable and balanced scientific views. Our presentation and discussion assessments and feedback play a key role in developing these skills.

5) Personal Effectiveness The ability to organise and summarise your thoughts and material in a flexible and accessible way are core features that are required for personal effectiveness. Planning, time management and reflection are central to this. Of course these features also interlink with your personal and intellectual autonomy. By providing you with a timetable where key submission dates are highlighted, we are encouraging you to develop your effectiveness throughout this course.

6) Technical and Practical Skills.
In order to continue in a scientific career it is important that you not only understand the conceptual basis of how experiments are designed and carried out but also that you have the practical techniques to do this. Your practical training on this course provides skills in basic data collection methods in the behavioural sciences and how these types of data can then be analysed and conveyed. The skills you develop from your practical sessions, in critical observation, investigation and interpretation, careful recording, quantification and analysis, should serve you well in any future employment.
Special Arrangements From 2009-2010 onwards the course is being taught in Semester 2.
Additional Class Delivery Information The distribution of lectures and practicals varies week by week but all fall within the class time which is 09:00-12:30 (note 12:30 NOT 12:00) on Monday & Thursday.
Course organiserDr Emma Cunningham
Tel: (0131 6)51 3602
Course secretaryMr Tim MacDonald
Tel: (0131 6)51 7296
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