BEAM Course Objectives
BEAM is offered through the College of Natural Science, Department of Zoology and is arranged through the Office of Study Abroad. Students are required to enroll for six (6) credits in ZOL 490, Study Abroad in Zoology. Course instructors lecture students on selected topics germane to understanding the Serengeti ecosystem and the behavior of its animals.
BEAM focuses on the behavior of African mammals and the ecological variables that shape the behavior exhibited by each resident species. During the program, students begin by identifying and becoming familiar with resident mammals. We then move on to making detailed observations of individuals and groups, and monitoring their interactions. We discuss how the scientific method is applied to the study of behavioral ecology. Ultimately, students use a variety of techniques for systematic data collection to test hypotheses suggesting explanations for why each species engages in particular types of behavior. The curriculum is designed to exploit the extraordinary richness and diversity of this park's mammalian fauna, as well as the ease with which it can be observed.
The best times of day for observing the behavior of African mammals is around dawn and dusk, so we will spend two or three hours each morning and evening in our vehicles, observing and quantifying the behavior of various mammals, and testing hypotheses about why these animals behave as they do. During the warmer hours around midday, and again each evening, course instructors will lecture students on selected topics germane to understanding the Serengeti ecosystem and the behavior of its animals.
Topics to be covered in this course include:
- Ecological determinants of mammalian behavior
- Life history patterns of resident mammals
- Biological rhythms in mammalian behavior
- The relationship between morphology & behavior
- Field methods in the study of mammalian behavior
- Foraging & feeding behavior
- Effects of human populations on behavior and conservation
- Play behavior
- Vigilance and anti-predator behavior
- Reproductive behavior: courtship, sexual behavior, & parental behavior
- Current research in the field of Behavioral Ecology
After developing an understanding of the behavioral biology of African mammals and the methods available for its study, students will be expected to develop and conduct independent projects answering specific questions about the behavior of one species, comparing the behavior of two different species, or testing an explanatory hypothesis in relation to behavior. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals by R.D. Estes' (1991) will be used as a text and supplemented with other scientific readings.