BIOSCI 735 : Advanced Behavioural Ecology


2021 Semester One (1213) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Focuses on organisms interacting in natural environments. Both the mechanistic underpinnings of behaviour and the fitness consequences of such behavioural traits will be examined. Behavioural ecology is not limited to questions of behaviour, but draws in issues of energetics and physiology as these factors are often used as proxies for fitness traits such as differences in survival and reproduction. A sound understanding of BIOSCI 337 or equivalent is assumed.

Course Overview

Behavioural ecology is a lively international and modern discipline exploring the dynamic interplay between evolution, ecology and behaviour. We aim to develop your professional skills in reading, researching, discussing, presenting and writing about contemporary topics in behavioural ecology. We focus on synthesis and critical analysis of concepts, research methods, and publication styles. These skills are broadly transferable to any scientific career or further study, but here we have a strong focus on the evolution of animal behaviour.
The theoretical topics we cover are tailored to class interests and expertise, and change every year since most activities are student-led. What will you and your classmates choose?

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Characterise the major research topics in the field of behavioural ecology (Capability 1)
  2. Analyse how biotic and abiotic selective pressures drive the evolution of adaptive behaviours (Capability 1 and 2)
  3. Critically evaluate and synthesise underlying theory, and experimental and methodological approaches in group work, mentor/mentee and individual contexts (Capability 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6)
  4. Lead and facilitate group learning activities, including presenting a scientific seminar, leading class discussions, and providing peer evaluation and feedback (Capability 2, 4 and 6)
  5. Research , critically evaluate and synthesise scientific publications to prepare a large literature review on an original and novel topic in behavioural ecology (Capability 1, 2, 4 and 5)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Coursework 35% Individual Coursework
Discussions 10% Peer Coursework
Presentation 20% Individual Coursework
Essay - meeting with staff 5% Individual Coursework
Essay - outline 5% Individual Coursework
Essay - full literature review 25% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Essay - meeting with staff
Essay - outline
Essay - full literature review


Although there is no formal Tuākana program associated with postgrad courses, we aim to facilitate a Tuākana-Teina approach where students and staff all collaborate as facilitators, advisors and learners. Nearly all the seminars, assessments and activities are student-led for BIOSCI735, providing opportunities for leadership of teaching activities, and both collegial and independent learning. We value diverse perspectives and develop an inclusive, welcoming culture of scholarly inquiry.

Key Topics

Weekly themes vary depending on the interests of students in the course. Key topics can be skills based (critical analysis in reading and writing, writing literature reviews, career planning strategies) and/or theory based (competition and cooperation, hormones and behaviour, mating strategies, sensory ecology, deception and mimicry, movement and migration, kin and non-kin strategies, foraging strategies).
Students work with staff mentors to choose their own topics for the literature review essay and the presentation.

Special Requirements

There are no field trips or out-of-hours activities. As well as the weekly seminars, students must have one meeting with one of the lecturers to collaboratively plan their literature review essay. This can be in person, by phone or by internet (e.g. zoom).

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 2 hours of lectures, 3 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 5 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.

There is no exam, but there is weekly coursework which must be submitted before class each week, and requires considerable time to prepare. The major assignment is a literature review which requires extensive reading, an individual with one of the staff, and considerable writing time throughout the semester.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is required at the weekly 2-hour seminar, which involves student presentations and extensive class discussions. One meeting with a staff member to plan the major assignment (literature review) can be in-person, or by phone, or online.  

The presentation and discussions are in class, in-person. The coursework and essay can be submitted online.

There is no exam.

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable. 

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.

Learning Resources

No specific text book is needed, just scientific papers. These are chosen each week by the students, with support from staff.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

We modify our course in response to student feedback. We have reduced the weekly coursework load, and introduced online discussion tools (Perusall) to allow groups to collaborate and comment on the weekly readings. Student feedback, peer review and peer design of marking schedules are also an important part of assessments.

Other Information

We are committed to building an inclusive and collaborative scholarly community -  we champion diversity and welcome all students with a background and interest in evolution and animal behaviour. We aim to provide a challenging and intellectually satisfying course that covers both theory and a range of study and work skills you can readily transfer to any scientific career.

Digital Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Weekly coursework requires the use of Perusall - a collaborative online reading platform. Each week, we will set up scientific papers (as chosen by the student presenters) in Perusall for all students to read, make comments, and ask and answer each other's questions. All students also choose one of the scientific papers, write a summary, and submit before class.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Our course welcomes diverse students. Our student-led approach means we can tailor activities to suit your talents.

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and your assessment is fair, and not compromised. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the University Website for information about how to proceed.

Under Covid Alert Level 1:  Delivered normally as specified in delivery mode 
Under Covid Alert Level 2: You will not be required to attend in person.  All teaching and assessment will have a remote option.  
Under Covid Alert Level 3 / 4: All teaching activities and assessments are delivered remotely 

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter

This course involves all students providing peer review and feedback on other students work. This is done via class discussions, online discussions, and via written feedback. These are moderated by staff but we also proactively work to develop a mutually inclusive and respectful culture, including class discussion and guidelines on appropriate feedback behaviour and language.


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course you may be asked to submit your coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. The final decision on the completion mode for a test or examination, and remote invigilation arrangements where applicable, will be advised to students at least 10 days prior to the scheduled date of the assessment, or in the case of an examination when the examination timetable is published.

Published on 07/01/2021 10:26 p.m.