Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)


Department: Biosciences


Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham


  • • Level 2 Ecology (BIOL2461); Level 2 Behaviour (BIOL2511).


  • • At least one other Level 3 Biological Sciences Module from the following list: Conservation Biology BIOL3551, Ecology in the Anthropocene BIOL3541, Advanced Topics in Development BIOL3521, Stress and Responses to the Environment BIOL3491, Crops for the Future BIOL3611, Biochemistry and Biotechnology BIOL3601, Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering BIOL3531, Ageing and Age-Related Diseases BIOL3591, Advanced Cell Biology BIOL3481, Biology of Disease BIOL3621.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • • None


  • To explore the ecological processes that underlie the range of behaviours and life history strategies shown by animals in nature.
  • To study theories which seek to explain the behaviour of animals.
  • To develop an understanding of quantitative modelling procedures used to study behaviour.
  • To provide an evolutionary context for animal behaviours


  • Impact of ecology on behaviour.
  • Role of evolutionary processes in shaping behaviour.
  • Conflict and competition.
  • Mating and sexual selection.
  • Social interactions and altruism.
  • The nature of individuality.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To comprehend how and why behaviour and life-history are shaped by a variety of forms of selection.
  • Comprehend how tensions between competing units with different selection pressures may be resolved (e.g. parent offspring conflict, conflict for resources, sexual conflict, reciprocal altruism).
  • Knowledge of the relative costs and benefits of behaviours and life-history strategies in ecological and evolutionary contexts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • To be able to apply quantitative modelling procedures, including optimisation techniques and game theory, to understand and predict behaviour and life-history.
  • To be able to critically assess the strengths and weakness of different theoretical frameworks of major behavioural and ecological issues.
Key Skills:
  • Literacy, in being able to consult and extract information from printed and on-line archives.
  • Data analysis, in interpretation and critical analysis of published modeling, experimental and field studies within behavioural ecology.
  • Communication skills, using the written word and graphics, involved in essays / research reports.
  • Self-motivation, in self-guided learning.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures deliver subject-specific knowledge.
  • Workshops reinforce subject-specific knowledge and understanding gained from lectures and the development of key and subject-specific skills.
  • Self-guided learning contributes to subject-specific knowledge and self-motivation.
  • Reports are based on subject-specific knowledge.
  • Unseen examinations demonstrate achievement of the appropriate level of subject-specific knowledge of development, with an emphasis on understanding and communication (essay and problem-based questions).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 35 Weekly 2 hours p/w 35
Workshops 2 1 per term 1 hour 2
Preparation & Reading 163
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Unseen formal exam 3 hours 100% No
Component: Continuous assessment Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Analytical exercise 100% No

Formative Assessment:


Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University