• Class Number 2517
  • Term Code 2930
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Naomi Langmore
    • Dr Janet Gardner
    • Prof Loeske Kruuk
    • Prof Michael Jennions
    • Prof Naomi Langmore
    • Prof Robert Heinsohn
    • Prof Robert Magrath
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/02/2019
  • Class End Date 31/05/2019
  • Census Date 31/03/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 04/03/2019
    • Rebecca Fox
SELT Survey Results

The aim of evolutionary and behavioural ecology is to understand how an animal is adapted to its environment, such as how an animal’s behaviour contributes to its survival or reproduction. In this course we consider the outcomes of natural selection on animal behaviour and function, and discuss how we test adaptive hypotheses. We will do this by focussing on key issues in behavioural ecology. Our lectures are organised into four modules: trade-offs between costs and benefits for survival and reproduction, the principles of animal communication, the evolution of cooperation, and the biology of sex. We consider such questions as: How do individuals balance the need to get food yet avoid predators? How are communication signals designed and what do they mean? What stops animals lying? Why is cooperation potentially beneficial yet its evolution is difficult to understand? When is it advantageous to produce sons versus daughters? Why are individuals choosy when selecting a mate? Why do males care for young in some species but not others?  These areas cover research topics of interest to the strong behavioural ecology group at ANU, and we will include our current research as well as that carried out worldwide. The overall aim of the course is to develop a logical approach that can be applied to understanding and testing any question in evolutionary biology.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

The aim of the course is to develop a logical approach that can be applied to thinking about the process of adaptation. Although our focus will be on behavioural ecology, we will develop a logical approach that can be applied to understanding any question in evolutionary biology. The generic skills we expect you to obtain in this course are the abilities to:

  1. recognise when behaviour poses difficulties for accepted wisdom and theory
  2. think strategically on how to formulate and test adaptive hypotheses
  3. communicate problems and their solutions to both an intelligent public and a community of informed scientists
  4. read the literature critically to assimilate views on new findings and present these views in writing.

Research-Led Teaching

This course is focussed on current research and how to test ideas using evolutionary theory. Lectures cover classic studies, recent research and current work carried out by the course lecturers. The literature assignment requires students to report on primary research published in the last year. Workshops consolidate and extend understanding of principles and research strategies.

Field Trips

None for BIOL3131. The sister course, BIOL3132, is based around a field trip in the mid-semester break. This is highly recommended for those intending to pursue evolutionary and behavioural ecology, or contemplating honours.

Examination Material or equipment

No permitted materials in the examination, except for English-foreign dictionaries for students as required.

Textbook: Davies et al. 2012. An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology. 4th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:
  • Written comments
  • Verbal comments
  • Feedback to the whole class, to groups, to individuals, focus groups

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lectures, Literature assignment workshop Workshop 1
2 Lectures
3 Lectures Literature assignment paper choice due
4 Lectures, Workshop 2 Workshop 2 (5%)
5 Lectures, Workshop 3 Workshop 3 (5%)
6 Lectures Literature assignment due via Turnitin (35%)
7 No lectures
8 Lectures
9 Lectures Workshop 4
10 Lectures, Workshop 4
11 Lectures Workshop 5 (10%)
12 Lectures
13 Examination period Final examination (45%)

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Literature assignment 35 % 05/04/2019 26/04/2019 1,2,3,4
Workshop 2 Written Exercise 5 % 21/03/2019 01/04/2019 1,2,3,4
Workshop 3 Written Exercise 5 % 28/03/2019 08/04/2019 1,2,3,4
Workshop 5 Written Exercise 10 % 24/05/2019 31/05/2019 1,2,3,4
Final examination 45 % 06/06/2019 04/07/2019 1,2,3

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website Students may choose not to submit assessment items through Turnitin. In this instance you will be required to submit, alongside the assessment item itself, hard copies of all references included in the assessment item.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Students will need to prepare for and participate in the workshops, held on Thursdays 12-3pm, and will be required to submit short, written exercises during the workshops.


The course has a final examination worth 45%, which is held in the final examination period. It is a requirement of the course that students must get at least 40% on the exam as well at least 50% overall to pass the course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 05/04/2019
Return of Assessment: 26/04/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Literature assignment

Students report on a recent research paper of their choice and place it in the context of recent research. The Assignment is in the format of a 'Dispatches' article for the journal Current Biology. There is detailed information on this assignment in the 'Introduction to the Course', online at the web site, and during the Literature Assignment Workshop. There is a rubric for this task, shown on the Wattle web site.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 5 %
Due Date: 21/03/2019
Return of Assessment: 01/04/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Workshop 2 Written Exercise

Short written exercise during Workshop

Assessment Task 3

Value: 5 %
Due Date: 28/03/2019
Return of Assessment: 08/04/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Workshop 3 Written Exercise

Short written exercise during Workshop 3

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 24/05/2019
Return of Assessment: 31/05/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4

Workshop 5 Written Exercise

The aim of this exercise is to illustrate principles of bioacoustics and communication and to familiarise you with some useful resources. We hope you will also come away with a new appreciation of the acoustic complexity of the natural world! You will carry out a short exercise in your own time that is designed to illustrate issues raised in the lectures on acoustic communication. The practical component should take less than 2 hours, after which you will individually write a short, assessable report and hand it in during the workshop in Week 10. At that meeting you will also need to explain what you did, what you found and what it means.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 45 %
Due Date: 06/06/2019
Return of Assessment: 04/07/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Final examination

The course has a final examination worth 45%, which is held in the final examination period. It is a requirement of the course that students must get at least 40% on the exam as well at least 50% overall to pass the course.

The date range in the Assessment Summary indicates the start of the end of semester exam period and the date official end of semester results are released on ISIS. Please check the ANU final Examination Timetable http://www.anu.edu.au/students/program-administration/assessments-exams/examination-timetable to confirm the date, time and location of the mid-semester exam.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Marked assessment will be left at the Teaching and Learning Centre or returned during workshops.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Resubmission of Assignments

Resubmission of assignments is not normally permitted.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information. In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service — including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy. If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes. Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).
Prof Naomi Langmore
6125 8182

Research Interests

Behavioural and evolutionary ecology

Prof Naomi Langmore

Dr Janet Gardner

Research Interests

Dr Janet Gardner

Prof Loeske Kruuk

Research Interests

Prof Loeske Kruuk

Prof Michael Jennions

Research Interests

Prof Michael Jennions

Prof Naomi Langmore
6125 8182

Research Interests

Prof Naomi Langmore

Prof Robert Heinsohn

Research Interests

Prof Robert Heinsohn

Prof Robert Magrath

Research Interests

Prof Robert Magrath

Rebecca Fox

Research Interests

Rebecca Fox

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions