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Unit information: Staying Alive in 2015/16

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Unit name Staying Alive
Unit code BIOLM0010
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Rands
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

The world is a dangerous and unpredictable place, and there are many trade-offs involved in staying alive. This unit will focus on the evolution, function and mechanisms of the behaviours that enable animals to reduce the risks they experience, and improve their chances of finding the resources that allow them to grow and stay alive. The unit will explain current thinking on fundamental issues in behavioural biology, considering how behaviour enables individual animals to respond effectively to challenges that they experience within their home environment. Lectures on current issues in the field will come from world-leading research staff actively working at all levels of animal behaviour, and will cover both the evolutionary forces shaping individual behaviour, in the context of an animal’s life-history, as well as the physiological, neural and genetic mechanisms behind behaviour. We will analyse decision-making and cognition, including that of humans, and how animals acquire information about their environment, all in the context of the evolutionary pressures facing different species. Throughout the unit, emphasis will be placed on the close links between theoretical and empirical work within the subject, and the experimental techniques necessary for investigating these links. Although, traditionally, mechanistic and evolutionary explanations for behaviour are considered, and taught, separately, here the goal is synthetic: to understand behaviour fully you need to integrate all levels of explanation.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to: 1. Describe and evaluate current topics in animal behaviour related to the evolution, function and mechanisms of the behaviours that enable animals to respond appropriately to challenges from the environment. 2. Explain the purposes for using different experimental and theoretical approaches for investigating behaviour. 3. Demonstrate the ability to evaluate and interpret experimental design critically.

Teaching Information

Lectures (12 hours), practical/field work (6 hours).

Assessment Information

Formative: Individual feedback will be provided on report from practical work (acting as formative feedback for later project work in the programme).

Summative: 2-hour written exam (100%)

Reading and References

Current reading will be recommended by the teaching staff, and will be drawn from the most recent literature.