Animal Behaviour

BIOL 321/3.0


Animal Behaviour will introduce students to an evolutionary approach to the study of animal behaviour.  The lectures will emphasize testing hypotheses about how natural selection shapes the behaviour of animals.  Material ranges from sensory perception and physiological mechanisms underlying behaviour to foraging, lectures will serve as an introduction to active and exciting research in ecology, psychology, physiology, genetics, applied conservation and animal welfare. Independent research projects will promote the development of research skills, including the design of a study, the collection, analysis and interpretation of behavioural data, and the written communication of results.

Note: Students in this course should have a basic understanding of how statistics are used in biology. Much of the textbook and assigned readings will require this knowledge.  In addition, you will not be able to complete your research project without being able to do simple statistical analyses (e.g. t-tests, chi-square tests).

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Explain how natural selection shapes the behaviour of animals;
  2. Distinguish between different types of questions that may be asked about animal behaviour, and formulate hypotheses of each type to explain a given behaviour;
  3. Outline the formulation of hypotheses about behaviour, the procedures used to test them, and the types of data that can be collected;
  4. Explain the origin and evolution of behaviours involved in activities such as foraging, spacing and group movement, predator-prey interactions, reproduction, and communication


Summer (May–July) 2023
Course Dates
Delivery Mode


Online Tests40%
Online Discussion Activities20%
Research Project Outline and Peer Feedback10%
Research Project30%

**Evaluation Subject to Change**

Live Sessions

This course has optional live sessions (e.g. webinars, synchronous activities).

Instructor Information

Dr. Laura Nagel (

Instructor Message

My name is Laura Nagel, I am an Adjunct Assistant Professor and Program Associate in the Department of Biology at Queen's University. I have been teaching ecology and animal behaviour courses online and in the classroom at Queen’s since 2006. This online course in animal behaviour is the result of one very successful online version in 2015 combined with years of teaching a live classroom version.

During this course, you will conduct a research project based on a question in animal behaviour that interests you. My own research focuses on the role of natural selection during the process of adaptation in wild populations of animals. My MSc in evolutionary biology is from the University of British Columbia and my PhD in marine evolutionary biology was conducted in Australia.

Textbook and Materials

ASO reserves the right to make changes to the required material list as received by the instructor before the course starts. Please refer to the Campus Bookstore website at to obtain the most up-to-date list of required materials for this course before purchasing them.

  • Dugatkin, L (2014). Animal Behavior 3rd edition. New York: Norton ISBN 0393920453

Time Commitment

Students can expect to spend approximately 11 hours a week (132 hours per term) in study/practice and online activity for BIOL 321.