Course syllabus

Psychology 300 ANIMAL BEHAVIOR Fall 2010

SLN 18126

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Sean O'Donnell, Professor of Psychology (Animal Behavior)

PHONE/VOICE MAIL: 543-2315 EMAIL: sodonnel "at"

OFFICE: Guthrie Hall, Room 325

Fall 2010 OFFICE HOURS: In my office Fridays after class 11:30-12:30, or by appointment

Course World Wide Web Page address (URL):

CLASS FORMAT: This five-credit course meets 5 days per week.

Most weeks we will have daily lectures (MWThF). Discussion sections meet on Tuesdays. In-class Exams and Films will be held on some days. For lectures, we will meet in Electrical Engineering Building (EEB) room 105 from 1030-1120.

Final Exam: Monday, December 13, 2010, 830-1020, EEB 105


1. TEACHING ASSISTANTS and DISCUSSION SECTIONS. TA office hours will be announced in discussion section.

Ashwin Bhandiwad: bhandiwa "at"; sections AA 9:30-10:20 in MGH room 082, and AB 10:30-11:20 in MGH room 082

Jason Stafstrom: jstaf "at"; sections AC 11:30-12:20 in MGH room 082, and AD 12:30-1:20 in MGH room 288

DISCUSSION SECTIONS: Attendance at discussion section is strongly encouraged. These weekly meetings with the Teaching Assistants are an important part of the course. Discussion section will be a chance for you to review material, and will provide further explanation of topics presented in lecture. Please attend the discussion section in which you enroll; any section changes are at the discretion of the TA.

2. REQUIRED TEXTBOOK: John Alcock (2009) Animal behavior: an evolutionary approach (9th edition). Available at University Bookstore. My lectures will not follow the textbook closely. The text is supplemental material for your further learning about animal behavior. It will cover additional material, and provide examples that are not presented in class. Some exam questions will be generated from textbook material.

3. WORLD WIDE WEB: Visit the course web page (address above) for important information. The syllabus and calendar are posted there. Lecture outlines and other materials will be made available on the web page.

4. FILMS: Films will be shown in class some weeks. The films illustrate some of the concepts and behavioral acts presented in lecture. Material presented in the films will be referred to in lecture, and will be used to generate exam questions.

5. DISABLED STUDENTS and STUDENTS WITH SPECIAL NEEDS: To request special accommodations contact Disabled Student Services (DSS) at 543-8924 as soon as possible. If you have a letter from DSS, present it to the professor promptly.


COURSE CONTENT AND GOALS: Our main goal will be to achieve a basic understanding of how the behavior of animals has evolved to solve problems posed by their physical and social environments. We will use examples from many different groups of animals- birds, mammals, fish, insects, and others- to explore the ways in which behavior has been shaped by evolutionary forces, especially evolution by natural selection. We will use modern theories and specific examples of animal behavior to explore the diversity of survival and reproductive strategies used by animals (including humans!).

In addition to presenting you with information about animal behavior, a major goal of the course is to increase your ability to understand and to think critically about scientific information in general.

The course will be organized around two main sections. In the first part, we will cover general concepts that apply to the study of animal behavior, including evolution, mechanisms, and communication. The second part will cover some of the most important research topics, including foraging, mating and reproduction, and parental and social behavior. We will finish with a unit on human behavior.


EXAMS AND DETERMINATION OF GRADES: All of the exams may include some objective-format questions (such as multiple choice), and may also include short essays and problems. You will not need to use blue books. There will be two 50-minute in class midterm exams, each worth 33% (100 points) toward your final grade. There will be a third 50-minute non-comprehensive exam during finals week also worth 33% (100 points) toward your final grade.

The total number of points you can earn for the course is 300 (100 points from each exam).

To calculate the final grade for the course, the following steps will be followed:

1. Raw Score = (Total points you earned/3).

2. Decimal Score = (Raw Score-50)/10 (Raw Scores of lower than 62 will receive a 0.0 for the course; no grades higher than 4.0 can be given).

The decimal score (4 point scale) will be reported to the registrar as the final grade for the course.

Grading example. Midterm Exam 1: 83/100 Midterm Exam 2: 87/100 Final exam: 75/100. Raw score = (83 + 87 + 75)/3= 81.7 Decimal score = (81.7-50)/10= 3.2 (on 4 point scale)

MAKE-UP EXAM POLICY: If you miss one midterm exam, you must contact the professor within 1 week, and request written permission to take a make-up exam. The make-up exams will be given only to pre-approved students during the second hour of the final exam time slot. If you miss more than one exam, you will receive an incomplete grade for the course.