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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Michael D Beecher
PSYCH 502
Seattle Campus

Core Concepts in Animal Behavior

Reading, reports, and discussion on animal behavior, with a focus on topics that lie at the interface of animal behavior, evolutionary science, neurobiology, and psychology. Includes social organization, mating systems, foraging, learning, communication, and agonistic behavior. Prerequisite: graduate standing in psychology, or permission of instructor.

Class description

The course will focus on problem areas that are central to the study of animal behavior. Tuesdays will generally be 'lecture' days (peppered with discussion) in which the instructors (Michael Beecher and William Searcy) give their take on the historical and theoretical basis for the question; we will read one or two seminal papers on the topic (sometimes golden oldies, sometimes hot new papers). Thursdays will stick with the problem area but focus more narrowly on a particular research and/or theoretical approach, again with a particular one or two papers we'll read; Thursdays will be led by one or two students in the class. Each paper will be discussed in seminar format, with the discussion leader/s responsible for (1) summarizing and (2) preparing questions for each original paper (questions to be handed out ahead of time as reading guides). The main requirement of the course will be leading two discussions and full participation in others. The other requirement of the course will be a paper or grant proposal centering on one of the research areas discussed during the course. Some potential topics and readings are listed below (based primarily on the agenda the last time the course was given, two years ago). The topics listed on the website should be regarded as a preliminary. We are still adding them and we solicit additional suggestions from the participants, the only requirement being that the topic can be reasonably viewed as a "core concept" in this very broad field. We'll winnow the list down to our top 10 (one for each week of the quarter). Thus the final selection of topics will take on the flavor of the particular interests of the folks who enroll in the class.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Seminar format.

Recommended preparation

A good biology background, however obtained, is the most useful background. A strong interest in the field is probably the only prereq for success in the course.

Class assignments and grading

Lead one or two seminar-style presentations, participate as discussant in the others, and write one paper (which can be either a review or a grant proposal).

On the basis of the quality of the assignments just described. As with all true grad courses, we will avoid excessive concern with grades. Participation in the actual class sessions is the most important thing.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Michael D Beecher
Date: 11/26/2007