This unit allows you to undertake a novel research project appropriate to your programme of study. It will allow you to practise the skills of proposal writing, research design, analysis and presentation.
The unit provides you the practical experience and techniques essential for your chosen field. Animal Behaviour and Zoo Conservation Biology students can choose between a work placement (at least two months) and a residential field course within Europe or the tropics. A field course will normally be compulsory for students on all other MSc courses and the content will be appropriate to their particular MSc programme.
This unit provides an overview of the contemporary study of animal behaviour and applied animal behaviour, together with detailed case studies. The unit prepares you for further study or employment in animal behaviour and related fields by providing experience of research design and scientific communication. The unit is underpinned by evolutionary thinking and the four levels of analysis Niko Tinbergen put forward for the study of Animal Behaviour, namely development (learning), mechanism (neurological and hormonal underpinnings), function (how does it help an individual survive and reproduce?) and evolution (how did it evolve?).
Statistics and Research Design
You will address problems and solutions associated with the analysis of real ecological and behavioural data sets. You will use a problem-based approach, centred on a large data set, to investigate methods of data manipulation and transformation, exploratory analyses (numerical and graphical) and hypothesis testing. Background information relating to experimental design, hypothesis testing, exploratory data analysis and statistical model building will be provided. Practical computer-based exercises will support topics covered in lectures and demonstrate data handling and analytical techniques.
Likely Optional Units
Genetics of Populations
Within the context of modern population genetics, this unit will introduce the application of molecular genetics tools to a range of problems in conservation and evolution. Equal emphasis will be placed on background theory, data handling and generation and surveying modern applied genetics through case studies and the primary literature. Lectures will deliver background information and will include population genetics and molecular genetics, with applications including the conservation management of small populations, identification of taxonomic units at the population level and inferring species biology using molecular data.
This unit will address the evolutionary and ecological background to species conservation and critically evaluate the role of natural and anthropogenic factors in promoting extinction. The ways in which species are selected for conservation action will be addressed and the reasons for success or failure in conservation programmes evaluated. A number of animal groups and habitats will be selected for case studies.
Zoos and Conservation
This unit will consider the role of captive animals in conservation from both a biological and management viewpoint. It will examine how a range of biological research techniques have contributed to the maintenance, successful breeding and welfare of zoo animals. It will consider the ethical issues associated with zoos and evaluate the value of in situ, ex situ and reintroduction programmes for conservation generally. In addition, the unit will examine the management of captive breeding programmes and the factors that affect collection planning.
Avian Biology and Conservation
This unit deals with the evolution, biology, and biogeography of birds and how evidence from these different research themes is utilised for avian conservation management. The unit will involve: an introduction to avian taxonomy and phylogeny; examination of the evolution of avian communication and life-history strategies; an introduction to avian biogeography and possible impacts of climate change and habitat modification; quantifying anthropogenic threats and avian extinction risk; human-avian population conflicts; and exploring possible solutions for applied avian conservation management such as habitat restoration schemes, agri-environment schemes and ecosystem services.