Behavioral Ecology (Bio 269): Course Information

Spring 2010


            Dr. Ron Coleman       Office: 119 Humboldt

                                                            916-278-3474 (w)

                                                            916-705-2606 (cell) until 10 pm






Course Location & Times:


  Lec:   #35602                        Tues, Thurs 6:30 to 7:45 pm              Hmb 124


Office hours: 

  Ron Coleman                         Wed 2:00 - 5:00pm                 Room Hmb 119

What this course is about:


This course is an introduction to graduate level behavioral ecology, the fast-moving, ever-changing science that tries to understand why organisms do what they do.


The course will be a quick-paced introduction to the field attempting to show the student the theoretical underpinnings of behavioural ecology (e.g., optimization theory, game theory) along with the topics that are currently being addressed (e.g., optimal foraging, parental investment, mating systems).

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

∙ Experience and appreciate the “cutting edge” of behavioral ecology



∙ Experience reading and analyzing the primary scientific literature

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

∙ Create and present an effective PowerPoint presentation lecture

Attendance and Deadlines:


Behavioral ecology is a way of thinking and it is best learned by lecture and discussion. You cannot participate in a discussion if you are not present. Therefore, I expect you to attend every class. If you miss a class, that becomes your problem, not a problem for me or the rest of the class, i.e., we will not wait for you.


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!



Danchin, E., Giraldeau, L.-A., & F. Cezilly (2008) Behavioural Ecology. Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-920629-2. REQUIRED.


There will be a midterm and a final for the course. The midterm will be held during the lecture period on March 25.

            The final will be held during finals week on May 18 at 5:15-7:15pm.

            Exams will be essay-type questions.



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 30

                        Final Exam                             30

                        Term Paper                             20

                        Other assignments

                                    and Participation         20



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

                                    A = 93 to 100%                    C+ = 77 to 79%

                                    A- = 90 to 92%                     C = 73 to 76%

                                    B+ = 87 to 89%                    C- = 70 to 72%

                                    B = 84 to 86%                     D+ = 67 to 69%

                                    B- = 80 to 83%                     D = 60 to 66%

                                                                                    F = 0 to 59%

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.