Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Winter's Calling!

Winter application status now released! Preview IntroSems with Space Available now and enroll starting this Thursday, November 30th at 9AM—first come, first served! This year, be a curious animal. Be You in an IntroSem.

Main content start

COMPMED 80N: Animal Behavior: Sex, Death, and Sometimes Food!

Group of meerkats.

General Education Requirements


Course Description

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?)  

We spend our time together working to generate shared understanding as a “community of learners”.  The seminar emphasizes in-class discussion, critique of documentaries, collaborative in-class presentations, and online collaborative research. 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.

Meet the Instructor: Joseph Garner

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."