Spotlight on: Behavioural Ecology

‘All of my learning about biology was done from textbooks,’ says Dr Neeltje Boogert, ‘so I want to make sure that my students get to do some experiments too!’

She teaches a course called ‘The Behavioural Ecology of Animals and Humans’, which she says is ‘for anybody interested in why peacocks have brightly coloured tails, why male seahorses give birth, why meerkats look after babies that aren’t their own and why people are so peculiar’.

The course is roughly carved into two sections. In the first, students explore how animal behaviour is shaped by evolution. In the second, they consider what evolutionary theory can tell us about the minds of humans.

This year, on one sunny morning in August, students were instructed to meet in front of King’s College at 9am. We then walked down to the river, where we undertook the important task of ‘generating duck food’ from several loaves of bread. Finally, the experiment could begin:

The following day, students used the data in order to form a deeper understanding of ideal free distribution.

In the video below, two students summarise their experience of the course:

For more information, see the Pembroke College website.


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