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Class Schedule
This brief syllabus is also downloadable as handout 2.

Brief Syllabus

FAQs (last updated March 17)

Q: I have some college biology, but not a full year. Do I have enough background for this program?

A: "College biology" can mean so many different things. Unless you tell me exactly what you know, or precisely what classes or programs you took and what the readings were, I can't assess that for you. Download the Things you should know handout that I've prepared to help you assess your level of preparedness. Also read or skim the suggested chapters in Evolutionary Ecology (by Pianka, the optional text). If the terms and concepts seem familiar to you, you probably have sufficient background. If not, you probably don't.

Q: My current program is a lot of work. I'm looking for something easier for Spring. Is Animal Behavior for me?

A: No. Animal Behavior will be a lot of work. It may not be the kind of work that you're used to, but it will be a lot of work by anyone's standards. There will not be a lot of memorization. But you will need to wrap your brain around complex evolutionary and ecological theory, wrestle with often conflicting conclusions, and do a tremendous amount of independent work generating hypotheses and experimental design, collecting data, analyzing and interpreting that data, doing extensive literature reviews...you get the picture. This is an upper-division science program, and if you're not on board to invest at least 40 hours every week of the ten week quarter (more than that if you want to really excel), then you shouldn't be in this program.

Q: I'm a junior who really wants in to the program, but I'm on the waitlist. What should I do?

A: Come to the first day of class; there may be a few spots that open up then. If you feel that there is something that I should know about your background or passion regarding why you should be in the program, Email me with a concise description of that background or passion. There may be no spots available on the first day of class, but if you really want it, you should go for it.

Q: I'm a sophomore who really wants in to the program, but I couldn't even get on the waitlist. What should I do?

A: You should find something else this time around, and take Animal Behavior in Spring of 2007. You'll have top priority then.

Q: My main interest in this program is that I love animals. Is that sufficient to prepare me?

A: Unfortunately, no. This program comprises a scientific approach to the study of behavior. There are many ways to understand and represent animals and what they do; we will not claim to cover all or even most of these representations or ways of knowing. Science involves rigor; falsification of wrong hypotheses; careful design of observational regimes or experiments to allow for replication by other researchers; reference to existing theory to explain new empirical findings; and no reliance on authorities simply because they are authorities. Anecdotes and nice stories about animals are just that: anecdotes and nice stories. The fact that they sound good or make us feel warm and snuggly inside is not sufficient to support them as scientific claims of truth. In science, the stories that we tell need to be backed up by evidence that can be vetted by other, objective scientists. A love of animals will supply you with the interest that you need to embark on this particular scientific endeavour, but it alone will not suffice.

Q: What will the field component of the program be?

A: There will be four all-program field trips: three daylong trips, to NW Trek, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, McLane Creek, and Gray's Harbor for the shorebird migration; plus one three-day trip to the Columbia River Gorge area (specifics TBA). In addition, all students will spend at least eight days in the field, on their own, collecting data for their independent research projects.

Q: What independent research projects? Are you kidding? Can I work in a group instead?

A: No, I'm not kidding. Most Evergreen programs involve working in groups, and you will indeed have the opportunity for some group work in Animal Behavior. But your big, independent research project, in which you conduct a complete piece of empirical, field-based science from beginning to end, will be yours and yours alone. You may not think that you can do that now, before you've attempted it. But in June, when you've done it, you will be amazed at what you have accomplished, and will have a better sense of what you are actually capable of.

Q: What are some past independent research projects that have been successful?

A: In the first week of class, I'll pass out a list of topics that have worked in the past. But bear in mind that all of these were generated by students just like you, except that they were in this program the first time it was taught, so they didn't get to ask this question. And essentially every single student came up with a compelling, viable question that turned into a really good, in many cases exceptional, piece of field-based research in animal behavior.