BIOL438-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024


15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 February 2024
End Date: Sunday, 23 June 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 3 March 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 12 May 2024


Current topics in the study of animal behaviour with an emphasis on empirical tests of theoretical issues. Topics vary from year to year but include sexual selection, foraging strategies, parental care and parasitism, problem solving and animal cognition.

This course will examine a variety of current subjects in behavioural research. Seminars will be structured around the discussion of assigned papers. Topics of seminars will include such things as sexual selection, parasitism, animal cognition and animal navigation. Marks will be based on a written review, presentations during each seminar and a final exam.

Recommended preparatory course(s): BIOL355, BIOL377, BIOL378, BIOL371, BIOL373 and/or BIOL383

Learning Outcomes

  • As a student in this course, I will develop the ability to:
  • Understand the theoretical basis of animal behaviour and to use this knowledge (and that from literature readings) to propose novel hypotheses to explain the evolution of animal behaviour (assessment task: final exam)
  • Prepare summaries of scientific papers from the literature and present these to the class orally (assessment: handouts for all seminars)
  • Write a critical review of a topic in animal behaviour using the primary scientific literature (assessment task:  written literature review)

    Transferable Skills Register
    As a student in this course, I will develop the following skills:
  • The ability to read the primary scientific literature critically (In each seminar you will be asked to read a number of papers from scientific journals. These will then be discussed in depth during the seminar, including critiques of the author’s approach, their methods, and their interpretation. We will also discuss how the questions might be researched more appropriately)
  • The ability to read a scientific paper and present your understanding (and critique) of the work orally to the class (Students will be required to search for at least one additional paper, on top of those assigned by the lecturer, to present to the class during each seminar. These presentations are done informally over 5-10 minutes, but provide students with the opportunity to lead the discussion and explain the study to others)
  • Writing a comprehensive review of a subject (Conducting a research project first requires a thorough understanding of the field. One must first know what has been done previously, and to have considered the work critically, before progressing onto new work. As part of this course, students will be required to write a literature review on a topic of their choice. This review will require extensive independent reading of the scientific literature, and the ability to summarise this information in a concise and critical fashion).


Subject to approval of the Head of School.



Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Tutorial A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 15:00 - 17:00 Rehua 530
26 Feb - 3 Mar
11 Mar - 17 Mar
25 Mar - 31 Mar
29 Apr - 5 May
13 May - 19 May
27 May - 2 Jun

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

Jim Briskie


Ximena Nelson and Elissa Cameron


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Final Exam 55%
Presentations 10%
Written review 35%

Textbooks / Resources

There is no textbook for this course. You will be assigned a series of readings from the scientific literature. The readings will be listed (on Learn) by the lecturers at the appropriate time in the seminar schedule, but at least one week before the seminar. Students are expected to have read the material, and to be prepared to discuss the papers by the start of each seminar.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,145.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Biological Sciences .

All BIOL438 Occurrences

  • BIOL438-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024