Animal Behavior (Bio 169): Course Information

Spring 2012


            Dr. Ron Coleman       Office: 119 Humboldt

                                                            916-278-3474 (w)

                                                            916-705-2606 (cell) until 10 pm






Course Location & Times:


             Lec:    #33276                        Mon, Wed 1:00 to 1:50 pm    Room 124 HMB

             Lab:    #33277                        Mon 2:00 to 5:00pm               Room 124 HMB


Each student must attend both the lectures and the laboratory

Office hours: 


Ron ColemanWed 2:00 - 5:00pmRoom 119 HMB

Course description:


This course is an introduction to the study of behavior. In particular, we will be focusing on the modern approach to the study of behavior, known as behavioral ecology, which emphasizes costs, benefits and tradeoffs to explore why animals do the incredible things that they do.


The laboratory will teach you the techniques used by behavioral ecologists and focus on experimental design and analysis of data.

Learning Objectives:



∙ Appreciate the diversity of animal behavior

∙ Develop an understanding of the fundamental roles of natural and sexual selection in shaping animal behavior

∙ Develop an understanding of the cost/benefit, optimality and game theoretic approaches to the study of behavior



∙ Learn to observe behavior

∙ Gain an introduction to reading and using the primary scientific literature

∙ Design and implement behavioral experiments based on sound statistical designs

∙ Research and compose a well thought-out term paper on a topic related to animal behavior, making use of the primary literature

∙ Learn to create and present an effective PowerPoint presentation

∙ Design, implement and present an individual project in animal behavior

Attendance and Deadlines:


I expect you to attend every lecture and lab; you miss class at your own risk. Anything I say is fair game for exams, whether it is in the text or not. Some things I say will definitely not be in the text, and some may contradict the text. In the latter case, what I say is taken to be the correct answer. If there is a difference between what I say and what is in the text or what you have learned elsewhere, please ask about it in lecture or after class and we will discuss the differences.


My goal as a lecturer is to guide and assist you in learning about this material. I can't do that if you aren't in class or if you don't tell me what you don't understand.


If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the notes from another student, not from me. I DO NOT hand out lecture notes, nor do I post them to the web.


Deadlines are strictly adhered to. It is not fair to students that complete work on time for other students to have extra time to do the same work. Plan ahead and schedule your time. Most importantly, don't leave things to the last minute; you don't need that kind of stress!

Email policy:


This course does not use SacCT. However, we do make regular use of email. On occasion, I may send important messages to your Saclink account. As a Sac State student, you are responsible for regularly checking your Saclink email account (i.e., daily). Failing to do an assignment because you did not check your Saclink email account is your problem. Furthermore, when corresponding with me about this course, you MUST use your Saclink email account, not a gmail, yahoo or any other email account. This is an official University policy.

Field Trip:


There is a mandatory field trip (this coming Sunday, Feb 5) to Ano Nuevo to see the elephant seals. If you cannot go this Sunday, you are required to go another day and to show me the receipt. Because Ano Nuevo is about 3 hours away, this is an all-day trip. Yes it is SuperBowl Sunday.



Krebs, J.R. & N.B. Davies. 2012. An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology. Fourth Edition. Blackwell, London. REQUIRED. This edition is due to be published in late February 2012. I prefer that you wait to get this edition rather than buying the third (1993) edition.


Dawkins, R. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Second Edition. Oxford. ISBN 0-19-286092-5 REQUIRED.



There will be two midterms and a final for the lecture portion of the course. There will be a midterm and a final in the lab, both held during lab time. Midterms are held during the lecture period and will be a mixture of fill-in the blank, short-answer and essay questions. I do not believe in multiple choice questions and do not use them.


Exams will be comprehensive, i.e., anything in the whole course up to that point in time is fair game. My previous students comment on two aspects of my exams: I am a hard grader and I am a fair grader. You can expect long exams that test your knowledge, but they will be exams without tricks. My goal is to have you tell me what you know and understand. You will have to work very quickly.


            This course is worth 3 units.


The number of points/questions on a particular exam is irrelevant to the exam's worth -- it is merely a tool for grading. What matters are the following percentages.

            Your lecture grade will be calculated according to the following scheme:


Midterm I 20

Midterm II25

Final Exam35

                        Term Paper                             20



            Your lab grade will be calculated according to the following scheme:

                        Midterm                                  20

                        Final                                       20

                        Project                                    30

                        Other Labs                              30




NOTE: You must retain in some orderly fashion all assignments and graded materials until after the end of the semester (i.e., June). You may be asked to produce these at the end of the semester. Failure to produce an assignment will result in a grade of 0 for that assignment.


Your course grade will be a combination of your lecture and lab grades as follows:

                        Lecture         2/3                  Lab                 1/3

            Your letter grade will be calculated according to the following table:

                                    A = 93 to 100%                    C+ = 77 to 79.9%

                                    A- = 90 to 92.9%                  C = 73 to 76.9%

                                    B+ = 87 to 89.9%                 C- = 70 to 72.9%

                                    B = 84 to 86.9%                  D+ = 67 to 69.9%

                                    B- = 80 to 83.9%                  D = 60 to 66.9%

                                                                                    F = 0 to 59.9%


I generally do not adjust or curve or scale grades; If you want an "A", work for it and make it happen!


I do not hesitate to correct any errors I make in grading (e.g., incorrect addition or if I missed grading an answer), but keep in mind that I am looking for clear, succinct answers, not answers that sort-of-show-you-possibly-might-know-what-you-mean. If you feel that your answer deserves a better grade, please return it to me promptly.


I do not use "extra credit" assigments.

Health and Safety:


Read and sign the separate Safety sheets.

Honor Code:


Please don't cheat. Besides the fact that we will be forced to take strong measures if we catch you -- including recommending your dismissal from the class and from the university -- I will be profoundly disappointed in you.

            Don't even think about doing any of the following:


            a.         giving or receiving information from another student during an examination

b.using unauthorized sources for answers during an exam such as writing answers on hats, clothing or limbs

            c.         illegally obtaining the questions before an exam

            d.         altering the answers on an already-graded exam

            e.         any and all forms of plagiarism

            f.         destruction and/or confiscation of school and/or personal property



I appreciate your feedback on this course. It is most useful to tell me things while the course is in progress, rather than waiting until the end of the course. If there is something that needs changing, LET ME KNOW and I will see what I can do about it. This course is a collaboration between you and me. I really enjoy teaching this class and I want you to have a great time as well.







Jan 23

Jan 25

Introduction to Class

Intro to Animal Behavior

Survey of skills; Examine/present journal articles from Behavioral Ecology 



Jan 30

Feb 1

Natural Selection

Natural Selection, Group Selection

Experimental Design (regression, t-test, Chi-square); “Jewel of the Rift”video and exercise



Feb 5





Feb 6

Feb 8

Directions of Selection

Economic Decision Making

Discuss field trip to Ano Nuevo for Elephant Seals; Elephant Seal video; Discuss “Decision Rules..” paper



Feb 13

Feb 15



Marginal Value Theorem experiment



Feb 20

Feb 22

Lecture Midterm 1   

Prey choice

Term paper proposal due

Microsoft Excel for Behavior Biologists

Microsoft Excel for Constructing Graphs



Feb 27

Feb 29

Risk; Optimality

Predator vs Prey

Using Powerpoint; Discuss individual projects



Mar 5

Mar 7

Evolutionary Arms Races

Competing for Resources

Sample Powerpoint Presentations; Excel Data Analysis tools (t-test, regression)



Mar 12

Mar 14

Optimal Group Size

Optimal Group Size

Lab Midterm



Mar 19

Mar 21

Spring Break – no classes

Spring Break – no classes



Mar 26

Mar 28

Lecture Midterm 2

Fighting & Assessment

Term paper Part I due




Apr 2

Apr 4

Fighting & Assessment

Game Theory

Game Theory Example



Apr 9

Apr 11

Game Theory

Project presentations



Apr 16

Apr 18

Field Trip

Term paper due; Sexual Selection

Field trip to Sacramento Zoo (during class)



Apr 23

Apr 25

Sexual Selection

Sexual Selection

Project presentations



Apr 30

May 2

Parental Care

Project presentations



May 7

May 9

Alternative Strategies

Altruism & Cooperation

Lab Final 

10, 11


May 14

Final Exam Mon May 14 12:45-2:45