TERRESTRIAL WILDLIFE ECO-ETHOLOGY

Degree course: 
Corso di First cycle degree in ENVIRONMENTAL AND NATURAL SCIENCES
Academyc year when starting the degree: 
2018/2019
Year: 
3
Academyc year when helding the course: 
2020/2021
Course type: 
Supplementary compulsory subjects
Language: 
Italian
Credits: 
6
Standard lectures hours: 
56
Detail of lecture’s hours: 
Lesson (40 hours), Exercise (16 hours)
Requirements: 

There are no formal prerequisites.
Basic knowledge in Zoology and Ecology, basic theory on data analysis and representation. can be helpful, but aren't mandatory. Knowledge of English language is recommended.

Final Examination: 
Orale

The exam consists of an intermediate oral examination and a final examination. Questions will be based on the syllabus (and at least one will be on a topic chosen by the candidate) and the final score (in marks out of 30) will be based on comprehension (25%), capacity to apply theoretical concepts to real cases (25%), autonomy of judgement (15%), communication skills (15%) and learning abilities (20%).
The final examination will be based on the discussion of a short report related to the field activities.
Final evaluation will be based on the same criteria described for the intermediate oral examination. The final scoring will be a weighted average between the intermediate examination score (2/3) and the final report (1/3).

Assessment: 
Voto Finale

The course is an introduction to the study of animal behaviour in natural environments, with particular reference to terrestrial vertebrates (birds and mammals) belonging to the European fauna, as well as species of interest from the conservation and management standpoint.
In detail, the course will introduce to the application of the experimental approach in an evolutionaty context to the study of animal behaviour. The principal paradigms will be discussed concerning resource selection, cost/benefit analysis, optimal foraging, competition for resources, predation and anti-predatory evolutionary strategies, social structures, mating systems ,inter- and intra-specific communication.
The course will also focus on practical examples and case studies, examining in depth some of the theoretical topics discussed.
A series of field activities is also included, aimed at the practical applications of the concepts presented during the course.

At the end of the course it is expected that students will acquire the following skills:
- knowledge of the principal interpretative models used to analyze behavioural choices
- competence in designing experiments to quantify animal behaviour
- competence in applying the concepts learnt to practical context such as wildlife monitoring.

The course will deal with the following topics, covering 40 hours of lectures:
- Introduction to the study of behaviour in the field (2 h).
- Presentation of the course syllabus, principles of behavioural ecology, origin and history of the discipline, objectives and methodologies (2 h).
- The experimental approach (2 h).
- Experimental design, hypothesis testing, experimental field design, fundamentals of data analysis (2 h).
- Interpretive models of behaviour (2 h).
- The cost/benefits paradigm, cost/benefits balance, Game Theory and its application to the study of behaviour (2 h).
- Behaviour and Evolutionary Stable Strategies (2 h).
- Definition of Evolutionary Stable Strategy, stable strategies, alternate strategies and opportunistic behaviour, predatory and anti-predatory strategies (2 h).
- Mating systems and reproductive strategies (2 h).
- Sexual selection, sexual competition, parental investment, parental care and “family conflicts” (compatition betwen parents, sibling rivalry, parent-offspring conflicts) (2 h).
- Social behaviour (2 h).
- Group living: evolution and advantages, “selfishness” and “altruism”, mutualistic behaviour, cooperation and kin selection (2 h).
- Communicaiton and signalling (2 h).
- Types of communicaiton, signals and cues, “dishonest” signals, behaviour and communication (2 h).

The Course also comprehends seminars related to case studies and in-depth examples (not all the seminars listed below will be offered each year):
- Behavioural ecology of the Alpine Hare (2 h).
Cleptoparassitism and linked behavioural strategies in digger wasps (2h).
- Competition for resources in tree squirrels (2 h).
- Group behavior and sociality in bats (2 h).
- Sexuality: advantages, disadvantages and evolutionary consequences of gonochory (2 h).
- Movement ecology and behavioural strategis: the biomechanoic approach (2 h).
- Prey selection in fish-eating birds (2 h).
- Mating systems I
n tree squirrels (2 h).
- Anti-predatory strategies in Amphibians and Reptiles (2 h).

The student is mandated to use one of the following textbooks:

N.B. Davies, J.R. Krebs, S.A. West (2012). An introduction to Behavioural Ecology, 4th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4051-1416-5 (paperback) 978-1-4443-3949-9 (hardback)

J.R. Krebs, N.B. Davies (2016). Ecologia e comportamento animale. Nuove edizione riveduta e ampliata. Traduzione di P. Messina, M. C. Lorenzi. Bollati Boringhieri. ISBN 978-88-339-2826-5 (paperback)

Slides used in the lectures and additional self-study materials (e.g. videos) available on the e-learning platform.

The course consists of 48 hours of lectures (6 ECTS credits) also using videoconferencing, of which 16 of praxctice exercises both in the field and in computer laboratory, all taught by the teacher in charge, to sustain theoretical elements with real-world case studies and applications. Course attendance is recommended, but not mandatory: at that purpose, all the materials (slides, data sets, etc.) used are made available on the e-learning platform.

The teacher in charge is always available, subject to the arrangement of an appointment by e-mail.
At students request, the teacher will use the first part of a lecture to clarify or elaborate on previous lectures topics. It is also possible to ask for elucidations diring the lectures.
The use of the e-learning patform (forums, glossaries) is highly recommended to share among students any requested issue.

Professors