The UNSW Animal Behaviour (BIOS3011) course provides one of the most fascinating and rewarding fields of zoological study. The course introduces the study of animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, ethology, comparative psychology and the levels at which these can be studied.

In particular, you’ll focus on the adaptive evolution of animal behaviour and how ecological processes shape such behaviour. You'll discover new and amazing phenomena about the animal kingdom.

Term offering: Term 2

Course attendance: In person

Level: Undergraduate - Third year

Discipline: Biology

Course code: BIOS3011

Course breakdown

The course has the following aims:

  • to introduce the broad approaches used to study animal behaviour
  • to consider the proximate genetic, neurobiological, hormonal, physiological and environmental influences on behaviour
  • to introduce the concepts and tools necessary to build a sophisticated understanding of the evolution of behaviour
  • to explore the important insights that an adaptive perspective on human behaviour can provide
  • to emphasise the importance of primary research in student learning by devoting a considerable portion of the course to case studies presented by practising scientists
  • to provide an introduction to the use of formal mathematical models to understand adaptive behaviour
  • to explicitly teach skills in research design, execution, analysis and communication by providing intensive collaborative research projects
  • to strengthen student skills in all aspects of collaborative work in these projects.

Animal Behaviour has a strong focus on contemporary research, both in lecture content and in a practical program that is heavily research—and student-centred.

Major topics include:

  • neuroethology
  • evolution of behaviour, prehistoric and contemporary
  • animal cooperation
  • animal and human social behaviour
  • choosing a mate
  • animal communication
  • conflict and territoriality
  • finding a home and food
  • animal cognition and learning.

Conditions for enrolment

Students are expected to have a general understanding of animal ecology and evolution, and are strongly recommended to have taken the Evolutionary & Physiological Ecology (BIOS2011) course.

Career opportunities

The course is intended for Stage 3 students with an interest in evolution and animal ecology. It’ll provide you with hands-on experience in conducting “real” science, effective science communication and forms an excellent foundation for honours research.

Relevant roles

  • Animal Psychologist
  • Behavioural Ecologist
  • Field Ecologist
  • Welfare Officer
  • National Parks Ranger
  • Conservation Biologist
  • Wildlife Manager
  • Zookeeper Research
  • Technical Officer

Find out more

For more information, please contact Dr Terry Ord.


T: +61 2 9385 3264