The purpose of this laboratory course in animal behavior is to provide you with hands-on experience in

  • critical thinking and communication
  • the scientific method and hypothesis development
  • behavioral observation and experimental design
  • technical tools and statistical analyses

It is an important complement to the lecture course, although the two courses need not be taken concurrently.


We hope to exposure you to the field of animal behavior through the use of computer exercises, videos, lab experiments and field exercises. Because clear, accurate communication is the cornerstone of scientific research, many of our sessions will involve the use and development of written and oral communication skills. There will be weekly lab quizzes, bi-weekly lab reports, and a final oral presentation. In order to be successful in this class, you will need to think critically about the lab objectives, take pride in your writing and speaking, and devote ample time to completing the assignments. Merely attending class will not be enough; you must be prepared for and engaged in every lab in order to succeed.


1. Attendance. Coming to lab is obviously a must. One-quarter of your grade is based on coming, participating in the lab, and staying until the lab is over. Makes ure to come every week. For many reasons, there can be no make-up labs. You will not be allowed to complete work for a laboratory that you fail to attend.

2. Participation. Participation means not only that you come to class on time and for the full period, but you are actively involved by asking and answering questions and engaged in discussions about lab material with classmates (15 pts). In addition, each of you is required to come one time to a TA's office hours with a thoughtful question about lab, lecture, or animal behavior in the media (10 pts). Finally, you must attend one pre-approved EEB seminar either on Monday 4-5pm (Room TBA) or Tuesday 12:30-1:45 (Room TBA) and write a one-page summary of the seminar's content and how it relates to topics discussed in class (5 pts).

3. Lab Quizzes. Every week at the beginning of class we will have a 5-minute lab quiz. The quiz material will focus on the handout for the current week's lab. If you are late to class, you will not be allowed to take the quiz and you will receive a score of zero for that week. You will be allowed to drop your two lowest quiz scores.

4. Lab Reports.

For the lab report format and rubric, click here

For tips on locating primary literature, click here

You are responsible for two (2) lab writeups over the entire semester. You may submit up to 3 lab reports and keep your highest 2 grades. There are seven labs for which lab reports can be submitted (see syllabus). For reports, you must choose at least one from the first set of four labs (see syllabus for dates). Lab reports are due the week after the lab takes place. No late reports will be accepted. If you will not be attending lab, it is your responsibility to make arrangements with the TAs to turn in your lab report before the next lab. All lab reports will have a consistent format (see below). Remember that all lab reports must be typed, doubled spaced and stapled before being submitted to the TAs.

A main goal of this class is to teach you the difference between observations and experiments. Commit these definitions to memory now because it will save you valuable time and headache in the future. Observations involve collecting data or describing nature without manipulating any factor. Experiments involve manipulating one or more variables (e.g. temperature or pH) while holding everything else constant. Some labs will consist of observations only; others will involve experiments.

Above all, you should take pride in your writing. Although scientific writing is different from other forms of written communication, you are still conveying information using the English language. Good scientific writing is concise, precise and as simple as needed to convey the information. Use technical terms when they clarify your point; avoid them when they do not. Scientific species names should be italicized. You will be graded on your English including grammar and spelling. A great resource for all writing is:

Strunk, W. & E. B. White. 2000. The Elements of Style. Allyn & Bacon Press.

Please do not be discouraged by null results, such as are obtained when experiments do not work as planned. Welcome to SCIENCE! There is no "right" answer for every lab. Your task is simply to draw conclusions based on the results that you obtain. You can get full marks for a well-written report in which "nothing happened". Conversely, you can get a low grade for a poorly written lab report in which "everything happened exactly as predicted."

Please note: Any paper found to be previously or concurrently submitted for evaluation in another course will receive a failing grade. University standards for plagiarism will apply to grading. The UA Student Code of Conduct states: "All forms of student academic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism, are prohibited." "Plagiarism" means representing the words or ideas of another as one's own.

(The UA Library has a very useful web page about plagiarism -- what constitutes plagiarism, the relationship between paraphrasing and plagiarism, how to avoid plagiarism.)

5. Oral Presentations. An essential aspect of any research project is dissemination of the findings from the study. The most common ways to make others aware of your work is by publishing the results in a journal article, or by giving an oral or poster presentation (often at a regional or national meeting). While efforts are made to teach the elements of writing a journal article in many class curricula, much less attention is paid to teaching those skills necessary to develop a good oral or poster presentation - even though these arguably are the most common and most rapid ways to disseminate new findings. In addition, the skills needed to prepare an oral presentation can be used in a variety of other settings - job interviews, graduate school interviews, or professional school interviews.

There are many different strategies for giving a fantastic oral presentation. The best strategy is discovering usually through trial and error what you're comfortable with while still operating within the confines of scientific presentation convention.

In the final labs, we will cover how to give a good talk (and alternatively, a bad talk). You will also have an opportunity to practice your presentation skills with a short (10 min) presentation of your lecture class project. If you are not enrolled in the lecture course, see instructors to arrange a topic for your presentation.


1. Attendance 50 points
2. Participation 30
3. Quizzes 40
4. Lab Reports 60
5. Oral Presentation 20
Total Points 200

Letter Grades:
A=180-200 points
B=140-179 points
C=100-139 points
D=70-99 points
E=0-69 points
Last modified: 04-Sep-2012
Webmaster: Dan Papaj
Boxing fly photo courtesy of Charles Hedgcock.
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