• Class Number 3596
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Prof Naomi Langmore
    • Dr Lucy Aplin
    • Prof Michael Jennions
    • Prof Naomi Langmore
    • EmPr Robert Magrath
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
SELT Survey Results

Our aim in this course is to introduce you to the logic of thinking about the process of adaptation. We will do this by addressing a number of key controversies in behavioural ecology, the study of how natural selection shapes the behaviour of animals. Our lectures are in five modules that cover key topics: the trade-off between survival and reproduction, the principles of animal communication, the evolution of cooperation, evolutionary arms races, and the perils of sex. We consider such questions as: How do animals balance the need to get food yet avoid predators? Can animals lie? Why are males usually bad parents? Why don’t parents produce only daughters? Why are animals choosy when mating? We will emphasise the importance of behavioural ecology to conservation. If we know the predictors of fitness for individuals, we can better predict population growth and responses to environmental change. Behavioural ecology provides the holistic understanding needed for practical conservation. ANU has a word-class behavioural ecology group, and we include our current research alongside that carried out worldwide. Our overall aim is to help you develop a logical approach to understand and test any question in evolutionary biology.

Note: Graduate students attend joint classes with undergraduates, but also have additional components and assessment.

Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Recognise when behaviour poses difficulties for accepted wisdom and theory.
  2. Think strategically about how to formulate and test adaptive hypotheses.
  3. Communicate problems and their solutions to both the public and other scientists.
  4. Read the literature critically to assimilate views on new findings and present these in writing.
  5. Carry out independent literature research.
  6. Understand and explain how knowledge about animal behaviour can translate into conservation action.

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.

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

Recommended student system requirements 

ANU courses commonly use a number of online resources and activities including:

  • video material, similar to YouTube, for lectures and other instruction
  • two-way video conferencing for interactive learning
  • email and other messaging tools for communication
  • interactive web apps for formative and collaborative activities
  • print and photo/scan for handwritten work
  • home-based assessment.

To fully participate in ANU learning, students need:

  • A computer or laptop. Mobile devices may work well but in some situations a computer/laptop may be more appropriate.
  • Webcam
  • Speakers and a microphone (e.g. headset)
  • Reliable, stable internet connection. Broadband recommended. If using a mobile network or wi-fi then check performance is adequate.
  • Suitable location with minimal interruptions and adequate privacy for classes and assessments.
  • Printing, and photo/scanning equipment

For more information please see https://www.anu.edu.au/students/systems/recommended-student-system-requirements

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.

Other Information

If remote teaching is required, lectures will be pre-recorded and available on Wattle. Workshops may be conducted via Zoom at the scheduled time or students may be given exercises to complete in their own time.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lectures
2 Lectures, Workshop 1
3 Lectures
4 Lectures
5 Lectures, Workshop 2 Communication Exercise report (15%)
6 Lectures
7 Lectures, Workshop 3 Mid-semester Exam (30%)
8 Lectures Literature assignment paper choice due
9 Lectures
10 Lectures Literature assignment (20%)
11 Lectures, Workshop 4 Workshop exercise (5%)
12 Lectures
13 Examination period Final examination (30%)

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Workshops 1 and 2 Written Exercise 15 % 22/03/2024 12/04/2024 1,2,3,4,5
Mid-semester exam 30 % 17/04/2024 01/05/2024 1,2,3
Literature assignment 20 % 08/05/2024 22/05/2024 1,2,3,4,5
Workshop exercise 5 % 15/05/2024 29/05/2024 1,2,3,4,5
Final exam 30 % * * 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 and may be required to submit short, written exercises or do an oral presentation during the workshops.


The course has two examinations each worth 30%, which are held in the mid-semester exam period and the final examination period. It is a requirement of the course that students must get at least 40% on the exams as well at least 50% overall to pass the course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 22/03/2024
Return of Assessment: 12/04/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Workshops 1 and 2 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 5. At that meeting you will also need to explain what you did, what you found and what it means.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 17/04/2024
Return of Assessment: 01/05/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Mid-semester exam

The course has a mid-semester examination and a final examination, each worth 25%, which are held in the examination periods. It is a requirement of the course that students must get at least 40% on each 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.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 08/05/2024
Return of Assessment: 22/05/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

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. Masters students will expand on this exercise by contrasting the findings of their chosen paper with another paper on the same topic and exploring the reasons for the similarities and differences between them.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 5 %
Due Date: 15/05/2024
Return of Assessment: 29/05/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3,4,5

Workshop exercise

Workshop 4 will comprise an in-class exercise and written work that can be completed during the workshop (5%).

Assessment Task 5

Value: 30 %
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,3

Final exam

The course has a final examination worth 30%, 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 returned through Wattle, or 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

By Appointment
Dr Lucy Aplin

Research Interests

Behavioural and evolutionary ecology

Dr Lucy Aplin

Prof Michael Jennions

Research Interests

Behavioural and evolutionary ecology

Prof Michael Jennions

Prof Naomi Langmore

Research Interests

Prof Naomi Langmore

By Appointment
EmPr Robert Magrath

Research Interests

Behavioural and evolutionary ecology

EmPr Robert Magrath


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