Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Animal Behavior: Sex, Death, and Sometimes Food!

COMPMED 80N
Prerequisites: 
An enthusiasm for animals and animal behavior

Why do animals behave the way they do? What does behavior tell us about their inner lives, and about ourselves? Background reading and class lectures will develop basic principles and flesh them out with unforgettable examples. (What, for instance, do lipstick and cuckoos and fireflies have in common? Why wouldn't anyone want to be a penguin? What do mice say to each other in their pee-mail?) The seminar will have an emphasis on in-class discussion and critique of video examples, documentaries, and research papers, including the chance to video-conference with the authors of assigned reading and ask those burning questions you always have after reading a really exciting paper. Traditional and modern topics will include: history and approaches to animal behavior; the development of behavior, from genetics to learning; the mechanisms of behavior, from neurons to motivation; the function of behavior, from how behavior has been shaped by evolution to why animals appear to behave altruistically; the phylogeny of behavior, emphasizing how related behaviors change from species to species to fit each animal's niche; and modern applications of behavior, from abnormal behavior to conservation to animal welfare and animal consciousness.

Offered in both Autumn and Spring.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Joseph Garner

"I am an associate professor of comparative medicine and, by courtesy, of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. I received my doctoral degree in (abnormal) animal behavior at the University of Oxford, Great Britain, conducted my postdoctoral training at UC Davis, and began my faculty career at Purdue University. My research interests include the development of refined methods in behavioral research; abnormal behaviors in animals and their relationships with abnormal behaviors in humans; mouse well-being and enrichment; and the scientific impact of well-being problems in lab animals. My favorite experiments are ones where the animals tell me what's really going on by doing the opposite of what was predicted. I pursued a career in the field because it presents some of the hardest questions and most beautiful answers in science; and because of the great potential for animal behavior to improve both the lives of animals, and also the lives of humans. I serve on the boards of both animal well-being and human mental health advocacy organizations. None of the animal members of my own family are particularly well behaved, but I prefer them that way."