Year of entry: 2020
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Course unit details:
Field Course in Animal Behaviour and Diversity
|Unit level||Level 1|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||School of Biological Sciences|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
This 12 day field course is held at a site near Marakele National Park in South Africa. Using the South African savannah as a setting you will analyse the cause and function of the behaviour of a range of animals including large mammals, birds and invertebrates. You will also be able to conduct biodiversity projects on invertebrate, bird and mammal populations. Working in small teams you will design and execute a field based project.
Take a look at our field courses webpage for more information and photographs:
**The cost of this field course is £1,630 and a £500 deposit is required when you sign up for this field course; this is non-refundable unless we are unable to offer a place**
This unit is preferentially aimed at Zoology and Biology students, but is also open to Neuroscience and Life Sciences students. Participants on the course will have to undergo a course of appropriate immunisations in the months prior to the departure date.
The overall aim of the course is to provide an understanding of the adaptive value of animal behaviour and how it can be analysed. Using the South African savannah as a setting, students will design simple experiments in the field on animals across a wide variety of taxa, ranging from large mammals and birds to invertebrates, to address cause and function of animal behaviour. The course will also cover conservation issues and ex situ management as well as topics covering methods to assess biodiversity across taxa.
- To understand the basics of experimental design and conduct simple behavioural experiments in the field.
- To develop observational skills to accurately record behaviours of a diverse range of animals.
- To understand key concepts in behavioural ecology, comparative evolution, and biodiversity
- To understand how behaviour is adapted to the physical and social environment
- To develop skills in statistical analyses, experimental design and presentation of project results.
Prior to the field course, students will receive a lecture in experimental design and will complete a statistics exercise. They will also be expected to read a paper describing a zoological study, and summarise it in a short group presentation. The residential field course will take place over 12 days of the Easter vacation (exact dates to be finalized) in South Africa. Accommodation is provided at a site near Marakele National Park, Thabazimbi, in the Limpopo province. Common flora and fauna of the bushveld will be identified. Students will work in small groups on different behavioural projects, including classifying species based on behaviour, diurnal variation in animal behaviour, social behaviour of birds and large mammals, and biodiversity. Lectures covering aspects of animal behaviour, zoology, conservation biology, evolutionary biology and behavioural ecology will be delivered during the field course. The course work is complemented by an excursion to Pilanesberg National Park, night drives and an introduction to the rehabilitation, conservation and breeding of African animals.
Field courses will require a financial contribution to be made early in the first semester of your first year. In cases of financial hardship, you should contact the Senior Advisor as soon as possible. You cannot change field course registration after the end of the second week of teaching in Semester 1.
- Analytical skills
- There is a strong emphasis on deciding how to analyse data and then to perform the appropriate statistical tests.
- Group/team working
- Projects in the field are carried out in groups of 4-5. Students are required to devise an experimental plan and then spend 4-5 days collecting data.
- This is probably the first chance for 1st year students to design their own experiments. Examples of previous projects are given, but the students are given the opportunity to be creative.
- Leaders are not appointed but inevitably one or more students take charge of different aspects of the project.
- Project management
- Groups need to decide on when to collect data and identify a suitable site.
- Oral communication
- Group presentations using PowerPoint and flipcharts in the field. This is a 10 minute presentation summarising the rationale for the project, methods and findings, followed by 5 minutes of questions.
- Problem solving
- Students will encounter problems with their experimental design/ data collection.
- The idea is to design and carry out a mini-research project - the students come up with a hypothesis and then work out a scientific way to test it.
- Written communication
- Individual reports detailing the project carried out in the field. Handed in 3 weeks after returning from the field to allow access to the library/ internet for retrieving references. Requires appropriate statistical analysis of data.
- Students may be outside of their normal comfort zones, being in a foreign country and different environment. Fieldwork is unique in providing the opportunity to study outside of the lab.
|Written assignment (inc essay)||55%|
Students will be assessed on their participation in group projects, assessment in preparatory course (10%), experimental design worksheets (5%), 1 hour exam during the course consisting of about 25 questions (15%), group presentation of the projects (15%), and individual project write-ups (55%).
Students will receive verbal feedback on their experimental design to help with project planning. They will also receive written feedback on their write-ups to improve their report-writing skills.
- Festing, MFW et al. The Design of Animal Experiments, 2nd ed. SAGE (2016).
- Bateson, P & Martin, P, Measuring Behaviour (3rd edition), Cambridge University Press (2007)
- Carruthers, V, The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of the Region, Struik, Capetown, SA (2000).
- Estes, RD, The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals, UC Press: Los Angeles (1992).
- Fowler, J & Cohen, L, Practical Statistics for Field Biology (2nd Edition), Wiley: Chichester (1998).
- Krebs JR, Davies NB, West SA, An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, Oxford University Press (2012).
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Independent study hours|
|Reinmar Hager||Unit coordinator|