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Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology

Module titleEvolutionary and Behavioural Ecology
Module codeBIOM4017
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Professor Nina Wedell (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The main aim of this module is to provide you with an understanding in key areas of evolutionary and behavioural ecology. This module will provide you with the ability to critically assess current scientific literature and methodologies. It will also equip you with the skills to enable you to plan and execute independent research. This module aims to prepare you for a future research-oriented career.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module deals with key issues in Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology and will prepare you to be able to critically evaluate current research in the field. The module aims to provide a synthetic understanding of the scientific processes in general, but in particular to provide an in-depth theoretical basis underpinning evolutionary and behavioural ecology. This Ecology module includes the study of evolution at the genetic and individual levels and how this relates to population dynamics. The module particularly focuses on mating systems, sexual selection and sexual conflict, evolutionary conflict, group making decisions and cooperation, and life history evolution. You are introduced to these topics and skilled in how they relate to evolutionary research in general, and specifically to current issues in evolutionary and behavioural ecology. A major emphasis is placed on preparing you to critically assess current primary research in the field.

This module will ensure that you will have the appropriate understanding of the principles underlying evolutionary and behavioural ecology research, in particular those that are relevant to your research project. The main aim of this module is to provide you with the ability to critically assess current scientific literature and to facilitate the planning and execution of your independent research project. This will equip you for a future research-oriented career. There will be week-long blocks each dealing with the topics outlined below. Learning will be facilitated by active participation in discussion groups, together with seminars and allocated reading.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Illustrate fully and systematically key concepts in evolutionary and behavioural ecology
  • 2. Critically and independently assess the research area
  • 3. Conduct a literature review of a current research topic in the research areas covered

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Discuss ideas and construct coherent arguments based on their independent and critical assessment of the discipline
  • 5. Solve problems in evolutionary biology
  • 6. Critically assess scientific literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Professionally present new ideas and results both in writing and orally
  • 8. Prioritise, generate, and summarise data relevant to the testing of rational hypotheses
  • 9. Present written reports in a clear, concise, and logical manner
  • 10. Think critically, and critically appraise and logically solve problems

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan


Module structure and a presentation of the wider topics of the module, and current ongoing research within the Centre for Ecology and Conservation.

Mating systems

This will cover the causes and consequences of male and female mating patterns.

Sexual selection and sexual conflict

This will include models of sexual selection, and the basis for sexual conflict.

Genetic conflicts

This will include the logic of genetic conflicts, selfish genetic elements, coevolution, and parent-offspring conflict.


This includes discussion of the Prisoner’s dilemma and related models, stable solution to cooperative behaviours and will cover evolution and maintenance of cooperation in animal societies.

Additional reading for discussion will be provided for all topics.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 10Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 15Seminar sessions
Guided independent learning125Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions during lectures and practical sessionsOngoing throughout the moduleAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay in a Nature News and Views format501500 words, maximum two A4 pages1-3, 5-9Written
Leading a group discussion synthesising scientific papers, including a discussion handout and oral presentation5015 minutes1-2, 4-10Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-3, 5-9During an appropriate specified time period before the end of July
Oral presentation synthesising a collection of papers Essay1-2, 4-10During an appropriate specified time period before the end of July

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further essay. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the mark and will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Davies, N.B., Krebs, J.R. and West, S.A. An Introduction to Behavioural Ecology (4th ed), Blackwells, 2012.

Additional reading:

  • Ridley, M. Evolution (3rd ed), Blackwells, 2003.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Behavioural ecology, evolution, mating systems, sexual selection, sexual conflict, selfish genetic elements, coevolution, behaviour genetics, quantitative genetics, behaviour, cooperation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date