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Unit of study_

BIOL3946: Animal Behaviour (Advanced)

Semester 1, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

The content will be based on the standard unit BIOL3046 but qualified students will participate in alternative components at a more advanced level. The unit will provide a broad overview of the scientific study of animal behaviour. It will consider mechanistic and functional explanations of animal behaviour across contexts including kin selection and altruism, sociality, foraging, aggression and competition, sexual selection and mate choice, the behaviour of predators and prey, and communication and signalling. The information presented and discussed in this unit will reflect the most up-to-date research in each aspect of the field of animal behaviour. Practical sessions are closely aligned with the lecture material and will foster the development of key skills by providing hands-on experience of experimental design, data collection and analysis.

Unit details and rules

Unit code BIOL3946
Academic unit Life and Environmental Sciences Academic Operations
Credit points 6
BIOL3046 or BIOL3025 or BIOL3925
An average mark of 75 or above in [12cp of BIOL2XXX] OR [6cp of BIOL2XXX and (MBLG2X72 or GEGE2X01 or GENE2002)]
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Ashley Ward,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam Take-home exam/test
Take-home test CANVAS timed exam, open book
50% Formal exam period 2 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO4
Assignment Game theory exercise
Written report
5% Week 03 19 short answer questions
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5
Assignment Bee behaviour final assessment
Written report
20% Week 07 Four page report
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Advanced literature project or research project
Written report to be submitted in Canvas
25% Week 13 Six page report
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5

Assessment summary

  • Game theory exercise: Following the practical session on Game Theory, students will be asked to answer a series of short questions on the topic
  • Bee behaviour final assessment: Following the bee practicals, students will produce a written report on the topic, structured by a number of pre-set questions
  • Advanced literature project or research project: Students will select a project based either on the literature or an experimental project in discussion with the course coordinator. Following this, they will produce a manuscript-style report of their findings.
  • Final exam: The exam will be on Canvas.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts.


75 - 84

At D level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.


50 - 64

At P level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge of the subject and can solve simple problems and can accurately identify key theoretical concepts.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 1. Introduction & the scientific basis of animal behaviour; 2. Game theory Lecture (2 hr)  
The prisoner’s dilemma game Practical (3 hr)  
Week 02 1. Natural selection in the context of animal behaviour; 2. Behavioural genetics Lecture (2 hr)  
Game theory Practical (3 hr)  
Week 03 1. Kin selection; 2. Altruism and co-operation among unrelated individuals Lecture (2 hr)  
Bee practical 1 (collecting bees) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 04 1. Sex ratio theory; 2. Sexual selection and mate choice Lecture (2 hr)  
Bee practical 2 (dissection, mucal glands and PCR) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 05 1. Parental care and mating systems; 2. Parent-offspring conflict and siblicide Lecture (2 hr)  
Bee practical 3 (genetics, microsats, analysis) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 06 Sociality 1 (benefits of group living) Lecture (2 hr)  
Bee practical reserve week Practical (3 hr)  
Week 07 1. Sociality 2 (costs of group living; optimal group size); 2. Collective behaviour and collective decision making Lecture (2 hr)  
Zoo animal behaviour experiment (week 1) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 08 1. Sensory ecology; 2. Communication and signalling 1 Lecture (2 hr)  
Zoo animal behaviour experiment (week 2) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 09 1. Communication and signalling 2; 2. Communication and signalling 3 Lecture (2 hr)  
Zoo animal behaviour experiment (week 3) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 10 1. Research talk; 2. Predator-prey interactions 1 Lecture (2 hr)  
Zoo animal behaviour experiment (week 4) Practical (3 hr)  
Week 11 1. Predator-prey interactions 2; 2. Predator-prey interactions 3 Lecture (2 hr)  
Week 12 1. Research talk; 2. Parasites and animal behaviour Lecture (2 hr)  
Animal behaviour talks symposium Practical (3 hr)  
Week 13 1. Applied animal behaviour and conservation; 2. Revision session Lecture (2 hr)  
Zoo animal behaviour experiment poster presentations Practical (3 hr)  

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the Library eReserve, available on Canvas.

  • Krebs, J.R., West, S and Davies, N.B. (2011) An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. describe and discuss the concepts associated with the scientific study of animal behaviour
  • LO2. identify and discuss some of the current topics in animal behaviour research
  • LO3. design and complete experimental and observational research in animal behaviour
  • LO4. critically read, evaluate and synthesise information from the primary literature
  • LO5. conduct analysis of data and communicate your findings concisely and scientifically in both written and graphical forms.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered

Work, health and safety

Completion of the Canvas module “Zoonosis Awareness” is compulsory.

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 
  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 
  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 
  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 
  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 
  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

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