Spring 2011 - Insect Behavior - PSYCH/BIO 406

4 Credits, Graded (4 point scale)

Class meets M-Th, 11:30-12:20 in room 234 Mary Gates

Instructor: Sean O'Donnell, Professor of Psychology (Animal Behavior) and Adjunct Professor of Biology

Office: 325 Guthrie

Tel. 206-543-2315

Email: sodonnel "at"

Web Page:


Format. Four weekly meetings will comprise a combination of formal lectures, open discussions, and student presentations. I will use PowerPoint multimedia computer presentations heavily (images, movies, and recorded sounds). There will be no textbook, but readings will be provided electronically when appropriate.


Subject matter.

-I will assume that you do have a background in animal behavior, and general introductory material on animal behavior will not be covered. If you have not taken animal behavior, you might read relevant sections in a good animal behavior text (I use Animal Behavior by John Alcock).

-I will also assume that you do not have a strong background in insect biology (which seems likely since we don't have an Ag. School here in Latte Land). As an introduction to the wonderful world of 6-leggers, the first section of the course will include coverage of the unique features of insects and their relatives that make them important subjects for the study of animal behavior. It will also include an overview of the major taxonomic groups (mostly Orders) of insects, focusing on the special features of each that are relevant to behavioral biology.

-After the insect biology section, we will survey some selected topics where insects have enlightened our understanding of the mechanisms and evolution of animal behavior.


Independent projects. Each student will be responsible for a single in-class presentation and a short paper on a behavioral topic of interest (You may choose your own topic in consultation with me). Projects will be done by small student groups.


Grading. Your grade will be based on one midterm exam, a non-comprehensive final exam, and the research paper/presentation. Each of the exams and the project (paper & presentation average) will be weighted equally. The midterm exam will be short essay and problem-solving in format, and will be given in class.