Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture One lecture prior to the field course. Remaining lectures to be delivered during field course.
Practical Field data collection and analysis (7 hours/day). Preparation of assessments (3 hours/day).


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment N Hours   Oral presentation  Outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  30%
Semester Assessment N Hours   Poster presenttation  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  30%
Semester Assessment N Hours   Practical report, submitted during field course  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  10%
Semester Assessment N Hours   Field notebook  1, 2, 3  10%
Semester Assessment N Hours   Practical report, to be submitted in Week 3, Semester 1  1, 2, 3, 4, 5  20%
Supplementary Assessment Extended practical report.  Report to be based on sample data provided by module co-ordinator  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Formulate and test hypotheses by designing appropriate observation regimes & experiments relating to animal behaviour and suggest avenues for future research

Develop classification systems relevant to the collection and storage of behavioural data

Choose and apply appropriate analytical techniques to interpret field data

Collaborate as a group to reach research goals

Communicate their research findings effectively and concisely

Brief description

The module will train and assess students in the collection, analysis and presentation of field data to discern what animals do, why they do it and how that behaviour has evolved.

The module builds on the theoretical framework provided in BS23520 and provides students with an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice through problem-based learning. It provides a practical introduction to field sampling techniques for a range of animal groups (e.g. birds, mammals, insects), including skills relevant to data collection, behaviour observation, experimentation and data analysis. Students will experience the whole scientific process, from hypothesis formulation through data gathering to analysis, interpretation and presentation of results in a range of formats.


This is a residential course based away from Aberystwyth. The field course is preceded by an introductory lecture in Aberystwyth outlining the format of the course, the daily schedule, methods of assessment and identifying essential pre-course reading. The course is divided into a number of projects, each preceded by a lecture introducing the assignment. Students are also required to devise and carry out their own independent project at the end of the course which will be assessed through a report submitted after the field course and an oral presentation to be given in the term following the field course.

The field course will make use of a variety of habitats including heathland and woodland where students will gain experience of handling mammals, birds & insects in the context of behavioural research. Students will work in small groups in tackling the assigned projects. Each project will be assessed by means of either a written report, poster, oral presentation or a combination of these, to be completed during the fieldcourse. Students are expected to discuss the data collected in the light of theories raised and knowledge acquired in Module BS23520 (Animal Behaviour).

The focus will be on answering Tinbergen's four questions of behaviour (function, causation, development and evolutionary history) by means of a variety of field observations and experiments. Training will be given in diverse data collection, surveying and sampling techniques. Specific behaviour topics will vary according to annual fluctuations in species abundance and weather conditions but will typically include foraging, predator-prey interactions, mate choice/guarding, decision making, territoriality, communication, as well as measurement & classification of morphological adaptations associated with particular behaviours.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Data collection, statistical analysis (parametric & non-parametric), hypothesis testing
Communication Written reports, oral and poster presentations prepared and assessed during and after field course.
Improving own Learning and Performance Attendance at lectures, observing demonstrations & participation in practical sessions (problem-based learning). Reflective learning through small group discussions.
Information Technology Use of statistical programmes (Minitab) in data analysis; use of Powerpoint for presentations; Use of spreadsheets, graphing (Excel) and word processing software for data organisation, analysis and presentation.
Personal Development and Career planning Reflective learning & group discussions after each project. Skills learned will have value for subsequent careers in conservation, animal behaviour and related fields. Generic skills (data analysis, report preparation, oral & poster presentations) applicable to a wide range of careers.
Problem solving Design & implementation of experimental field studies.
Research skills Design & implementation of observational & experimental field studies including data collection, animal handling, trapping, surveying techniques, statistical analysis, report writing and oral/poster presentations throughout field course. Critical assessment of scientific literature to underpin final report introduction & discussion.
Team work Directed projects undertaken in small groups. Independently designed projects undertaken in pairs.

Reading List

Essential Reading
Alcock, J (2009) Animal Behaviour Sinauer Associates Primo search Danchin, E (2008) Behavioural ecology Oxford University Press Primo search
Recommended Text
Dytham, C (2003) Choosing and using statistics: A biologist's guide Blackwell Primo search Martin, P and Bateson, P (2008) Measuring behaviour: an introductory guide Cambridge University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6