Behavioural Ecology

Program: Master programme in Biology
Level: Advanced level
Course code: 1BG319
Credits: 15 c
More info: Course syllabus
Student portal: Schedule and course material

All animals, including us, are selected to pay close attention to the behaviour of others, be it conspecifics, prey or predators. Our interest in behavioural ecology is thus a naturally selected one, and this course provides a deeper insight into the survival and reproductive values of various behaviours.

To understand the survival value of different behaviours is essential for our ability to manage natural and captive animal populations, to estimate their value for our own survival and to design breeding programmes. Specifically, we will deal with foraging, life history theory in connection with energy use, predation and survival, cooperation, group living and communication and signal design. Furthermore we will treat behaviours as tools for phylogenetic analysis. We will also discuss the connection between behavioural ecology and the preservation of biodiversity and plasticity.

When it comes to the reproductive value of behaviours, we will dwell on the reasons for the prevalence of sexual reproduction itself, on ways of reproducing sexually, and on sexual selection. We will plunge into models of sexual selection, their relevance for speciation, and deal with the connections between life history, sexual conflict and partner manipulation. Moreover, we will explore the design of sexually selected signals: how do they evolve, how is honesty secured, and how do signals change over time? Models for alternative mating- and life history strategies are also on the agenda.

Altogether, our students will acquire an excellent platform in behavioural ecology from where to launch a future research education or manage own research projects, as we provide insights in how to design and conduct an investigation using tools from behavioural ecology. Moreover, the course gives practical skills in the form of a behavioural background to maintaining species diversity, designing animal reserves and constructing breeding programmes to preserve threatened species, all part of a sustainable development. The course builds on and extends knowledge gained during the candidate course in ecology, and places an emphasis on contemporary and controversial areas within behavioural ecology.

For more information, please contact:
Richard Svanbäck (Richard.Svanback@ebc.uu.se)