Students observe animals at the Wildlife Center.

Taught by Professor Stotra Chakrabarti (@StotraChakraba2 ) in environmental studies, this course asks: Why do animals behave the way they do? Why do lions have manes while leopards don’t? Why do elephants and bees live in groups but many other species do not? Why does your friendly neighborhood squirrel get so busy late in the fall and again in the spring? Why do certain wolves ‘fish’ but others never learn the technique? In this course we will explore the fundamentals of animal behavior and use that foundation to understand how we can better manage and conserve animal biodiversity.

Why should I take this class? 

To explore the fundamentals of animal behavior and use that foundation to understand how we can better manage and conserve animal biodiversity. Why do animals behave the way they do? Why do lions have manes while leopards don’t? Why do elephants and bees live in groups? Why does your friendly neighborhood squirrel get so busy late in the fall and again in the spring? Why do certain wolves ‘fish’ but others never learn the technique? Labs include hands-on experience to quantify behavior, develop ethograms, and understand species’ repertoires. 

Motto

Watch and wonder! There are no stupid questions or wrong answers in Animal Behavior.

Students at the Wildlife Science Center

Fun fact

We make multiple visits to the Wildlife Science Center in Stacy, Minn., to observe, handle, process, and immobilize wolves, pumas, bears, and coyotes. Students observe these carnivores and learn how to quantify behavior in the wild through scan and focal sampling similar to what they have learned in class by watching videos of meerkats and lions. 

With staff assistance, students learn how to chemically immobilize wolves, take body measurements (weight, length, neck and chest girths etc), vital stats (respiration, heart rate, capillary fill, temperature) and how to perform surgeries in the field by implanting heart-rate monitoring biologgers subcutaneously into the wolves’ to gather heart-rate data and assess different behavioral states remotely.

Pictures speak louder than words

I use images in my lectures that I have taken across the globe while working in different systems and often an image speaks much louder than texts. 

Professor Chakrabarti caring for a female lion.

 

Twitter summaries

There are two Twitter summaries in this course. Students will present the gist of their papers in the form of 6-7 tweets, and are allowed/expected to be creative in the use of images, memes, gifs, etc. Science communication is as crucial as doing science

How we build community

In our lab, students work together in groups which percolate through the whole class, so students work together as a community. We just watched the documentary “Jane” together, which portrays the life of Jane Goodall, and how one behavioral ecologist can make a world of difference. An intense movie, but an inspiring one. Students need to know what they can become someday!

November 3 2021

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