Behavioral Ecology (Bio 269): Course Information

Spring 2008


Dr. Ron Coleman       
Office: 119 Humboldt
916-278-3474 (w)
916-705-2606 (cell) until 10 pm

Course Location & Times

Lec: #30360 Mon, Wed 5:00 to 6:15 pm Hmb 109

Office hours

Ron Coleman Wed 2:00 - 5:00pm Room 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!


We are going to focus heavily on the fourth edition of Krebs and Davis

Krebs, J.R. & N.B. Davies. 1997. Behavioural Ecology. Fourth Edition. Blackwell, London. REQUIRED.

Note that each edition of Krebs and Davies is different, i.e., the fourth edition is not merely an updated version of the third edition; the editions cover slightly different topics in the field of behavioural ecology. Practicing behavioural ecologists have all four editions.


There will be a midterm and a final for the course. The midterm will be held during the lecture period on March 19.

The final will be held during finals week on May 19 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: 

Final Exam 20
Class Presentation 20
Term Paper 20
Other Assisgnment and Participation 20

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%
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: 

  1. giving or receiving information from another student during an examination
  2. using unauthorized sources for answers during an exam such as writing answers on hats, clothing or limbs
  3. illegally obtaining the questions before an exam
  4. altering the answers on an already-graded exam
  5. any and all forms of plagiarism
  6. 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.