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Unit information: Biology of Behaviour and Welfare in 2015/16

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Biology of Behaviour and Welfare
Unit code VETSM0041
Credit points 10
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Held
Open unit status Not open




School/department Bristol Veterinary School
Faculty Faculty of Health Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce the basic biological principles underlying animal behaviour and welfare. As such it will provide students with the fundamental tools to understand and reflect on the application of animal behaviour to practical problems. Case studies will include examples from wild, domesticated and managed animals in a variety of natural and captive environments. Teaching will be informed by current and emerging research.

The unit will include overviews of brain structure and function, of the neural bases of different forms of behaviour and learning, cognition and consciousness. It will cover fundamental concepts in ethology and behavioural ecology with a focus on the evolutionary, life-time and short-time adaptiveness of an animal’s behaviour in changing environmental conditions. The unit will also provide an introduction to the physiology and endocrinology of an animal’s response stress.

These basic principles will lead on to consideration of behavioural restriction and abnormal animal behaviour in managed and captive animals, of behavioural indicators of stress, and of methods for the quantitative measurement of behaviour.

The content of this unit will underpin subsequent programme units that examine indicators of animal welfare and scientific methods for their assessment in greater depth, along with welfare legislation and ethical considerations associated with management of animals and their environments.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit the student will be able to:

  1. Describe and demonstrate understanding and integration of the basic scientific principles of animal behaviour and welfare
  2. Reflect on the application of behavioural principles to the management of animals and their environments in the their professional (or intended) field
  3. Where appropriate, show originality in applying knowledge to current or new problems in their field
  4. Develop and demonstrate an understanding of the principal methods used in measuring behaviour and their utility, including critical evaluation of shortcomings and interpretation.
  5. Effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms to specialist and non-specialist audiences, and deploy key techniques of the discipline effectively.

Teaching Information

A combination of lectures, seminars, practicals, interactive tutorials and self-guided learning.

Assessment Information

Assessment will be by a combination of in-course work (50%) and by an end-of-unit written examination (50%). The in-course work will typically consist of one ‘concepts’ research essay (2000 words) and one ‘application’ task. The written examination will assess knowledge of key principles of animal behaviour and welfare science, its application and effective communication.

Reading and References

  • Alcock, J. (2009) Animal Behavior: an evolutionary approach (9th Edition) Sinauer Associates.
  • Appleby, MC et al. 2011. Animal Welfare. CAB International.
  • Barnard, C. (2004). Animal Behaviour: Mechanisms, Development, Function and Evolution. Pearson, Prentice Hall.
  • Davies, Krebs, West (2012) An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (4th Edition) Wiley.
  • Martin, P., Bateson, P. (2007). Measuring Behaviour: An introductory guide. Cambridge University Press.