Graduate study in animal behavior is intended primarily for those who hope to later earn a Ph.D. or wish to amplify their expertise in animal-related career, such as laboratory research, field research, or conservation biology. The program is administered by the departments of biology and psychology.

Admission Requirements

No specific undergraduate major is required, but successful candidates will demonstrate work in biology and/or psychology. GRE scores are required and subject GRE scores in biology and/or psychology are encouraged.

Required undergraduate courses include core Biology courses and statistics. Recommended courses include Animal Behavior-related biology and/or Psychology courses and research methods. Minimum GPA in major is 3.0.

Program Description

The program requires two years of full-time work (including one summer) and consists of in residence course work in biology and psychology while conducting continuing research.

A minimum of eight courses approved by the adviser is required, two of which can be research hours, and the satisfactory completion of a research thesis.

Research programs for this degree do not involve human-animal interactions or animal training (i.e., applied animal behavior).

Faculty Research Interests

Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks - Endocrinology & Avian life-history
Elizabeth Capaldi - Behavioral Biology, Insect behavior and Brain Structure
Reggie Paxton Gazes - Primate cognition and behavior
Peter Judge - Biopsychology, Primate social behavior and social cognition
Kevin Myers - Psychology, Learning and Motivation, Appetite in Rodents
DeeAnn Reeder - Comparative Behavior and Physiology, Stress Responsiveness of Bats
Jennie Stevenson - Hormone and Stress Physiology, Reward in Prairie Voles
Mizuki Takahashi - Parental Care, Predatory-prey Interaction, Conservation Genetics in Amphibians

Facilities and Resources

The facilities include well-equipped laboratory space for research entailing work with insects, laboratory rodents, bats, indoor and outdoor enclosures for four species of primates, and surgical and histological equipment. The program is also equipped to incorporate the use of physiological and genetic tools for the study of behavior.

Recent Graduate Projects

  • Absolute numerous judgments in capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)
  • Affiliative post-conflict interactions among hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas hamadryas): Testing the "relationship" hypothesis
  • Altered behavior in bats affected by white-nose syndrome
  • Behavioral correlates of salivary cortisol in hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas hamadryas)
  • The influence of reconciliation on the quadratic post-conflict interactions of baboons (Papio hamadryas)
  • Picture recognition of food in brown capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella)
  • Transport of appropriate tools from distant locations by capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella): Implications for working memory

Courses Offered

(Other 600-level courses from the Departments of Biology and/or Psychology can be included in the program of study after consultation with the advisor.)

614. Amphibian Biology & Conservation (I, 3, 3)
Approximately 41 % of the world's amphibian species are estimated to be threatened, making amphibians as the most threatened group of vertebrates. Unfortunately, these declining trends are not sufficiently countered by the conservation efforts. While the lecture section of this course broadly explores the biology of amphibians including classification, development, reproduction, ecology, and evolution, the lecture also has a strong conservation focus. The laboratory section includes lab- and field- identification of amphibians and student-led research projects examining amphibian diseases among local populations.

619. Topics in Animal Behavior (I and II; R; 3, 0) Half to full course.
Occasional seminars on selected topics of current interest in animal behavior. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

620. Advanced Topics in Animal Behavior (I and II; R; 3, 0) Half to full course.
Culminating Experience seminar for senior animal behavior majors covering selected topics of current interest in animal behavior. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor.

621. Behavioral Ecology (I; 3, 0)
The consideration of behavioral adaptations to various ecological situations. Topics include habitat choice, foraging behavior, defenses against predation, mate choice, and brood care. Prerequisites: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 621.

641. Organic Evolution (AII; 3, 3)
The principles and mechanisms of evolution in plants and animals, covering population phenomena, speciation, life history strategies, adaptation, systematics, and biogeography. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 641.

642. Neuroethology (I or II; 3, 0)
A course that integrates neurobiology and behavior in natural contexts. Emphasis on signal detection, recognition, discrimination, localization, orientation, and the control of complex acts. Neuronal and hormonal mechanisms, ontogeny and evolution of behavior will be considered. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 642.

654. Tropical Ecology (II; 3, 0)
Introduction to tropical ecology, including life history strategies of vertebrates and invertebrates, biodiversity management and conservation. Emphasis on class and individual projects, data collection, and journal keeping. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 654.

655. Social Insects (I; 3, 3)
Evolution and genetics of social behavior, caste, communication in foraging and colony defense, queen and worker control over reproduction, social homeostasis, and population dynamics. Occasionally may be taught as a laboratory science. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 655.

656. Plant-Animal Interactions (I; 3, 3)
The coevolution and ecology of plants and animals covering pollination ecology, seed dispersal, plant-herbivore interactions, and habitat constraints on the behavioral ecology of animals. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 656.

657. Ornithology (II; 3, 3)
The biology of birds, including evolution, behavior, anatomy, physiology, ecology, and conservation; lab trips focus on identification of birds in the field. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL 657.

660. Graduate Research (I or II; R) Half to full course
Graduate research in animal behavior. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted with BIOL 660.

670. Primate Behavior and Ecology (I; 3, 3*)
Introduction to research on prosimians, monkeys, and apes including diversity, social evolution, sexual selection, reproduction, social behavior, and cognitive abilities. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Crosslisted as BIOL/PSYC 670.

672. Comparative Cognition
Advanced seminar exploring cognition and behavior from evolutionary and comparative perspectives. Topics will include social behavior, memory, communication, spatial cognition, learning, and meta-cognition.

680. Thesis (I, II; or S)
Preparation of a thesis leading to the M.S. degree.