Behavioral Ecology: Biology 528, 528L, 592B. Spring 2013.

Instructor: David A. Gray

Office Chaparral 5327, Hours Mondays 10-12 PM, Phone (818) 677-7653


Course Level: This is a 500 level course, defined by the University Catalog as "intended primarily for graduate students...." This course will be taught at a graduate level appropriate for MS students with identical high expectations for both undergraduate and graduate students. Biology 322 (Evolution) or graduate standing are pre-requisites for enrollment. Undergraduate students who have not taken Biology 330/L (Design and Analysis of Experiments) and/or Biology 502/L (Biometry) or any of our upper division 300 or 400 level field courses may be at a disadvantage.

Course Objectives:  This course is intended to provide students with an intensive examination of the modern field of behavioral ecology, that is, the quantitative analysis of behavior in an ecological and evolutionary framework.  The course consists of lecture (ca. 2 hours/week), laboratory (ca. 3 hours/week), and fieldwork including an original research project (ca. 3 hours/week).  Emphasis will be placed on hypothesis testing using both observational and experimental approaches.

Lecture (Bio. 528) will cover major topics in behavioral ecology, using Davies et al. 2012. An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 4th Edition. [about $55 on Amazon, ISBN 1405114169]. 

We will also read selections of original literature and from Olivia Judson's fabulous Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation [about $11 on Amazon, ISBN 0805063323].

Lab (Bio. 528L) will serve several functions.

Field (Bio. 592B) will be intensive hands on observational and experimental approaches to the study of behavior in the field, and will include both group and original field research projects. There will be two required weekend fieldtrips (Feb. 8, 9, 10 and Mar. 1, 2, 3). Both leave Friday at noon and return late Sunday afternoon/early evening; these fieldtrips may involve camping in remote areas with no facilities.

Expectations and Grading:  I expect full participation, which means more than simply showing up.  It means actively engaging the material in lecture, lab and field situations. Questions and interaction are always encouraged!! You are required to sign up for all three components of the course, but you will receive only two grades, one for lecture and one for lab + field.  Possible grades are A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D, F.

Policies: Preliminary Schedule:
Although scheduled as lecture MW 1 - 1:50, Lab M 2 - 4:45, Field W 2 - 4:45, in practice we will be quite flexible, including substituting weekend time for some class time.
Monday Wednesday Other
Jan 23


Introductions; Behavior and the Darwinian paradigm (Ch. 1)
Jan 28, 30

Lecture: Economics and Optimality (Ch. 3)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Pennings' Dogs & Calculus

Repeatability Fieldwork (Santa Monica Mtns) repeatability.doc and repeatability.xls Lab report 1 (10 points) Background Paper

Feb 4, 6

Lecture: Signals and Signal Design (Ch. 14)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Zahavi 1991

Lecture: Fighting and Assessment (read pages 116-119, Ch. 5 and pages 397-405, Ch. 14)
Lab: Hawk_Dove.xls Hawk Dove.doc Lab report 2 (10 points)

Elephant Seals Fieldtrip Feb 8, 9, 10; Lab report 3 (10 points)
Feb 11, 13

Lecture: Competition for ecological resources (Ch. 5)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Sparrows.pdf

Ideal Free Distribution Fieldwork (Gulls, Zuma Beach) Lab report 4 (10 points)
Feb 18, 20

Lecture: Predator-Prey, Coevolution (Ch. 4)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Marshall& Hill 2009 Aggressive Mimicry

Tutorial: Basic experimental design (read also Ch. 2 Testing Hypotheses in Behavioural Ecology); Tutorial: Using Powerpoint

Feb 25, 27

Lecture: Reproductive Conflict and Sexual Selection I (Ch. 7)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Gwynne & Bailey 1999

Lecture: Reproductive Conflict and Sexual Selection II (Ch. 7)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Stutt & Siva-Jothy 2001

Algodones Dunes Fieldtrip Mar 1, 2, 3; Lab report 5 (10 points);

Dr. Tatiana Sex Advice Presentations and Costume Party (20%)

Mar 4, 6

Tutorial: Data analysis I, Data analysis II

Project Idea Walkabout, Santa Monica Mtns
Mar 11, 13

Exam (40%)

Project Proposals
Mar 18, 20

Lecture: Parental Care, Mating Systems (Chs. 8, 9)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Møller & Thornhill 1998

Lecture: Alternate Strategies (read pages 131-142, Ch. 5)
Lab: Data presentation; IDF_Klepto2010.xls
Mar 25, 27

No Class, Project Work & Weekend Time Credit

No Class, Project Work & Weekend Time Credit
Apr 1, 3
No Class, Cezar Chaves Holiday
Project Updates
Apr 8, 10

No Class, Spring Break

No Class, Spring Break
Apr 15, 17

No Class, Weekend Time Credit

Lecture: Groups (Ch. 6); Lab: Paper Discussion: Hamilton 1971

Apr 22, 24

Lecture: Kin Selection, Selfishness/Altruism (Ch. 11)
Lab: Paper Discussion Duffy & Macdonald 2010

Lecture: Cooperative Breeding, Sociality (Chs. 12, 13)
Lab: Paper Discussion: Emlen 1995
Apr 29, May 1

Lecture: Human Behavioral Ecology, read Winterhalder & Smith

Project Work
May 6, 8 Project Presentations Exam (40%), Project Papers Due