The course aims to provide the students with a thorough overview of the central concepts and research questions in evolutionary and behavioural ecology and the necessary skills to perform independent research in this field. The implications of behaviour are considered at different levels, from genes to individuals, to populations and species interactions, and include a variety of organismal groups, such as mammals, birds, fish and insects. Topics covered include optimality, evolutionary stability, the genetic and physiological basis of behaviour (e.g. genetic pathways, hormones), life history theory, sex allocation, social evolution, mating systems, sexual selection and sexual conflict), co-evolution and individual differences. Students are able to apply these concepts to critically read scientific literature and design their own research project.
Teaching involves lectures, research talks and discussions with speakers, field/labwork and group discussion, skills in experimental design, (statistical) data analysis and working with R. Throughout the course the students will work on a mini-research project in which they learn to develop their own research question, formulate concise hypotheses, design and execute experiments, and efficiently find and process relevant literature. They will receive feedback from teachers during all stages of working on their mini-projects.
The mini-research project will be completed by writing a scientific manuscript and giving an oral presentation based on the performed research project.
The programme includes a week field course at our field station on the island of Schiermonnikoog to study the behaviour of animals and plants in a natural ecological setting. During this field course students will start with their mini-research project. They will develop a research question and their experimental design, and they will collect data in the field to answer their research question.