BIOSCI 735 : Advanced Behavioural Ecology


2022 Semester One (1223) (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 - outline 5% Individual Coursework
Essay - full literature review 30% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5
Essay - outline
Essay - full literature review

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 are also invited to have one or more meetings with one of the lecturers to collaboratively plan and develop their major assignment, the 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 optional meeting with one of the staff, and considerable writing time throughout the semester.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

This course is not available as an online enrolment due to the extensive student-led discussions required.

Attendance is required at the weekly 2-hour seminar, which involves student presentations and class discussions. A 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. 

Learning 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.

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. In class, we do student feedback, peer review and peer design of marking schedules.

Students say this course provides them with excellent tools for reading, researching, and writing, that they apply throughout their postgrad studies and thesis.

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.

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.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


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 course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

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 students may be asked to submit 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. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 10/11/2021 12:44 p.m.