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Course content

Our MSc Animal Behaviour is unusual in that it is offered within a Psychology department. This benefits you by providing a strong background in a broad cross-section of research methods used by researchers studying human and animal behaviour, a strong training in statistical methods and a multidisciplinary study environment. You will learn how to formulate and test relevant research questions and critically evaluate the research carried out by others in the field.

The programme will give you insights into the varied means of performing animal behaviour research in a wide array of locations with wild and (semi-)captive animals – in field, laboratory, zoo or other human managed settings. As part of the taught component you will be exposed to lectures and seminar discussions, research talks and discussions with speakers; boost and consolidate your knowledge and skills in statistical data analysis; participate in a one-week residential field course (during the Easter break); and engage in research skill training sessions. During the course you will continuously develop your abilities in critical analysis of the literature and of scientific evidence, project development, communication and scientific writing.

You will be part of the lively, internationally-recognised Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB) and will have the opportunity to work alongside our experienced researchers on a research apprenticeship which is a central component of the course. The apprenticeship is a research project that enables you to develop your research skills further and write up the research in the form of a journal article for potential publication. Apprenticeships can also be undertaken under the supervision of researchers at various institutions with whom we have developed long-term relationships.

On successful completion of the MSc you will have the skills to pursue a PhD, work as a researcher or pursue a career working in zoos, research centres, nature reserves, wildlife and other animal-related offices, education, scientific media or the expanding field of eco tourism.

Research Apprenticeship

A distinctive feature of all our taught Masters programmes is the Research Apprenticeship. About half of the MSc is spent on the apprenticeship, during which you will develop your research skills by working alongside experienced researchers or practitioners and write up your research in the form of a dissertation.

Many students undertake their apprenticeship with researchers in the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, both in the laboratories and outdoors around the campus, Devon and abroad. Every year the menu of choices varies depending on the interests of the researchers, the students and practicalities. In some cases students have worked with external research partners, in the UK or abroad. For example, previous students have carried out a wide range of research projects involving the following:

Topics: Social behaviour, animal welfare and enrichment, zoo research, animal cognition, navigation, sensory ecology, behavioural and evolutionary ecology, ecotoxicology.

Animals: Fish (guppies, sticklebacks, killifish), mammals (primates, squirrels, whales, donkeys, dogs, meerkats, coyotes), birds (pigeons, chickens, pheasants, magpies, flamingoes, woodland and sea birds), invertebrates (crabs, honeybees, bumblebees, desert ants, wood ants).

Locations: Streatham campus (Exeter), Knysna Elephant Park (South Africa), Bristol Zoo, Budongo Forest (Uganda), Torquay Zoo & Aquarium, National Wildlife Research Center (Utah, USA), Dartmoor (Devon), Phana (Thailand), Trinidad, Newquay & Paignton Zoos, Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Kerala (India), Algarve (Portugal), Veracruz (Mexico), Cayo Santiago (Puerto Rico).

External research partners: African Elephant Research Unit (South Africa), Bristol Zoo, Budongo Conservation Field Station (Uganda), Living Coasts (Torquay, Devon), National Wildlife Research Center (Utah, USA), Natural England, Phana Macaque Sanctuary (Thailand), University of West Indies, Whitley Wildlife Trust, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

Read the full module specification for the Research Apprenticeship.

Programme structure

The programme is made up of compulsory modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.

Compulsory modules

The compulsory modules can include;

  • Advanced Statistics;
  • Behavioural Science Research Skills;
  • Advances and Methods in Animal Behaviour;
  • Research Apprenticeship;
  • Current Research Issues in Animal Behaviour;

Visit the MSc Animal Behaviour page on the University of Exeter website for more details!

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