Introduction to Behavior - Fall 2013
Course Director: Professor Rob Raguso

Course Aims and Administration


Rob Raguso
W355 Mudd Hall
Walter Koenig
W361 Mudd Hall
H. Kern Reeve
W309 Mudd Hall
Kerry Shaw
W317 Mudd Hall
Tom Seeley W301 Mudd Hall TDS5 4-4301
Paul Sherman
W307 Mudd Hall
Maren Vitousek
W253 Mudd Hall
Charles Walcott
W255 Mudd Hall
Michael Webster
W361 Mudd Hall


Jonathan Lambert
Head TA
W347 Mudd Hall
McKenna Kelly
W347 Mudd Hall
Julian Kapoor W211 Mudd Hall VAK9 4-4365
Julie Miller
W345 Mudd Hall
Josh LaPergola
W343 Mudd Hall


Teaching Assistants will hold weekly office hours throughout the semester.  Faculty will schedule office hours as exams approach.  If you have questions concerning the course material, we urge you to come and discuss your questions during these hours.  Office hours will be announced during class.  They can also be obtained by contacting the course administrative assistant (see below). 


Lori Maine (W359 Mudd Hall; telephone:  254-4300; email: lmm8) is the administrative assistant who handles record keeping, assignment to sections and many of the other administrative details of this course.  She will be available 8-12 PM and 1-3:45 PM, Monday through Friday.  Please contact Ms. Maine for questions concerning any administrative aspects of this course.


Introduction to Behavior (BioNB 2210) is a one-semester course that can be taken for 3 credits (lectures only), 4 credits (with a discussion section), or 5 credits (with the writing-intensive discussion section).  Lectures are held three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 12:20-1:10 PM in Uris Auditorium.  Discussion sections meet once a week in Mudd Hall at various times (these are handled within the department, NOT through the student center and will NOT show up on your schedule).  You can contact Lori Maine to get signed into a section.  The course is designed for undergraduate and graduate students who want to better understand the evolution, adaptive significance, and mechanisms of animal (including human) behavior.


Overarching Learning Objectives:

1.  To acquire a greater awareness of, and curiosity about, your own behavior and the behavior of other living things.

2.  To gain mastery at asking and answering questions about the mechanisms and evolution of behavior by performing observations, generating hypotheses, deriving predictions, and developing tests to investigate the causes of behavior.

3.  To appreciate the similarities and differences between the behaviors of humans and non-human animals, and to understand how the study of behavior is relevant to your other courses, to your own life, and to the world around you.

4. To learn to read, interpret and critically evaluate scientific discoveries communicated through the primary, peer-reviewed literature.



A one-credit discussion section is required for students majoring in Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior (NB&B), and is optional for other students wishing to pursue the subject matter in greater depth than is afforded by the lectures alone.  Twelve discussion sections are available, each limited to 15 students.  In the event that discussion sections are oversubscribed, first preference will be given to NB&B concentrators and seniors.  Discussion sections will meet for 50 minutes weekly.  Four-credit students will read additional material each week, and submit a short written assignment in advance of class discussion.  Participants will also produce a scientific report on the behavior of an animal of their choosing, based on their own observations.


Discussion sections are not designed to serve as question/answer sessions for materials presented in the lectures.  The weekly office hours offered by the teaching assistants (see course website) serve that purpose.


Assignment to the various discussion sections will take place once your request/application has been received via the online request form.




Questions concerning this should be addressed to Lori Maine (lmm8; 4-4300).  Changes to the section assignments will be allowed for approximately 2 weeks (until 3 PM, Friday, September 6), subject to section size constraints. 


A writing intensive discussion section is offered in the form of a separate, 2-credit course (BioNB 2210-0003) Topics in Neurobiology and Behavior: Introduction to Animal Behavior, Track Two) for a total of 5 credits when taken in conjunction with BioNB 2210.  This course offers students the opportunity for a more extensive exploration of animal behavior through a number of writing assignments in addition to discussions in the section.  Although the section will certainly enhance writing skills, it is not designed as a writing improvement course per se.  Rather, it will enable you to develop and communicate a thoughtful synthesis of learned material through effective writing. Participants will write three substantial papers on topics assigned by the instructor, Josh LaPergola (JBL96; 4-4370; W343 Mudd Hall).


Enrollment is limited to 12 students, who will be selected by the instructor based on written applications. The successful applicants will be extremely enthusiastic about writing. The application deadline is 4 PM on August 30th (Friday) and is available online at the following web address:




Concentrators in NB&B may, of course, substitute this writing-intensive 2-credit discussion section for the normal 1-credit discussion section in fulfilling the requirements for the concentration in NB&B. 


This course has 1 textbook, Exploring Animal Behavior, 6th edition, 2013 (Sherman and Alcock), which is sold at the Cornell Campus Bookstore. Be sure to get the current (2013) edition of the book – it has changed significantly since the previous edition.  A number of additional readings are required for specific lectures.  All additional readings are linked to the BioNB 2210 homepage (see below).  The readings pertinent to each lecture are listed on the syllabus (see below).  


There will be NO printed course packet this year.  All individual lecture outlines will be available on the course website.  We will also have a complete course packet together available for download on the course website.  The lecture packet contains hard copies of the course aims and administration pages (what you are reading now) and the notes to accompany each lecture. All assigned readings for both 3 and 4 credit, except those from the required textbook, will be made available on the course website.  


Each lecture will be recorded. The audio will be available on the course website a few days after each lecture. The PowerPoint presentations of most of the lectures will also be available on the course website a few days after each lecture.



All relevant course information can be found here, as well as links to your TAs.  We have posted all lecture notes/readings etc.  It is your responsibility to obtain lecture notes prior to class. 


To get on the BioNB 2210 homepage, open your Internet browser and type in the address:




You will need to sign in and present a password for various portions on the web site. USERNAME & PASSWORD WILL BE EMAILED TO YOU AND GIVEN IN LECTURE. 


On Monday, September 23 and Tuesday, September 24 there will be a special laboratory session to give students the opportunity to conduct observations on the social behavior of honeybees and to develop a hands-on understanding of the levels of behavioral analysis.  (Note that lecture will NOT be cancelled on Monday the 23rd.)  The lab will take place in room 309 of Stimson Hall, where two glass-walled observation hives will be set up.  A problem sheet pertaining to the lab will be due in class on Friday, September 27th (the problem sheet will count as 10% of the first prelim). Please note that late submissions are subject to a 1 point deduction for each day that it is late.


Students taking the 4-credit or 5-credit options will attend the lab on Monday, September 23rd, and students pursuing the 3-credit option will attend on Tuesday, September 24th. Each student should plan to devote 30-60 minutes to this experience.  The following laboratory slots will be available:


4- and 5-credit students with last name starting with letters:  Monday, September 23

  • A-G      8-10:30 AM
  • H-M      10:30 AM – 12 PM; 1:30-2:30 PM
  • N-R      2:30-5 PM
  • S-Z       5-7:30 PM


3-credit students with last name starting with letters:  Tuesday, September 24

  • A-G      8-10:30 AM
  • H-M      10:30 AM – 12 PM; 1:30-2:30 PM
  • N-R      2:30-5 PM
  • S-Z       5-7:30 PM

Students have been assigned to one of these time slots based on the first letter of their last name.  Because the available equipment will support only about 8 students at a time, and there are over 250 students in the course, we request that (insofar as possible) you attend laboratory at your assigned time.


There will be two preliminary examinations and one final examination.  The “prelims” will be 50 minutes in duration and will be held during the regular class periods of Wednesday, October 2, and Monday, November 4. The final examination date has yet to be determined (please check the website for date/time as soon as it becomes available), but it will be 2.5 hours long.  Both preliminary exams will cover only material that has been presented since the previous exam.  The final exam will cover both materials since the second prelim and the contents of the entire course.  The first prelim will be worth 90 points (100 when the 10 points from the honey bee lab problem sheet is added); the second prelim will be worth 90 points (100 when the 10 points from the Game Bug Quiz is added); and the final exam will be worth 200 points.  The specific lectures and readings that will be covered by each exam are listed in the syllabus.  The faculty members responsible for the lectures covered on an exam will hold special office hours in the week prior to the exam.

Correct answers to the exams will be posted on the web page and on the bulletin board outside Lori Maine’s (course administrative assistant) office, room W359 Mudd Hall.  We will attempt to return your graded examinations within ten days of the exam date.   If it is necessary, we will schedule a makeup exam for each prelim and the final exam.  Nobody will be given a makeup without a suitable written excuse, signed by the appropriate authority (coach, doctor, academic advisor).  Excuses must be presented to the Head TA, Jon Lambert (JML526, 5-4464), by the time of the lecture prior to the scheduled exam.


For students taking the 3-credit option, grades will be assigned based on the total of their scores for the four exams (400 points possible).

For students taking the 4-credit option, grades will be assigned based on the total of your scores on the four exams (400 points possible), plus your performance in the discussion section (details below).  Your discussion section grade will count as 25% of your final grade in BioNB 2210, and the exams will account for the remaining 75%.

For students taking the 5-credit option, grades will be assigned based on the total of your scores on the four exams (400 points possible), plus your performance in the writing-intensive discussion section.   Your writing-intensive discussion section grade will count as 40% of your final grade in BioNB 2210, and the exams will account for the remaining 60%.

Students taking the 3-credit and 4-credit and 5-credit options will be graded separately.

Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity.  Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student's own work.  To view the policy:


If you are experiencing undue personal or academic stress at any time during the semester or need to talk with someone about a personal problem or situation, we encourage you to seek support as soon as possible. The course director or any of the course faculty is available to talk with you about stresses related to your work in this class. Additionally, we can assist you in reaching out to any one of a wide range of campus resources, including:

*          Your college's Academic Advising or Student Services Office

*          Cornell Learning Strategies Center at 255-6310,

*          Gannett Health Services at 255-5155,

*          Let's Talk Drop-In Consultation and Support'sTalk

*          Peer Support provided by Empathy Assistance and Referral Service at 255-EARS

Student Disability Concerns: Students with either an ongoing or short-term disability are encouraged to contact Student Disability Services (SDS) for a confidential discussion of their need for academic accommodations. SDS is located in 420 CCC building; phone number is 254-4545.



The BioNB 2210 discussion sections are designed to give an in-depth introduction to the field of behavior.  While the discussion topic schedule coincides loosely with the lecture schedule, the discussion sections are not intended to be question/answer periods for lectures (TA and faculty office hours serve this function).  Instead, the discussions will delve deeper into topics brought up in lecture and sometimes will cover topics somewhat tangential to the lecture material.  The primary goals of discussion sections are to give students an appreciation for how and why researchers study behavior, introduce students to current research and areas of interest in the field of behavior, teach students to critically evaluate scientific papers and experimental designs, and help students improve their experimental design and scientific writing skills.


Because BioNB 2210 sections are group discussions, their success depends on the participation of every individual in the group.  Therefore, all students are expected to: (1) attend discussions regularly, (2) come to section prepared (i.e., do the assigned readings before class), (3) contribute to the discussions, and (4) allow and encourage others to contribute.  The importance of these responsibilities cannot be over-emphasized.  A discussion in which only the TA or a few vocal individuals participate is both boring and a poor learning experience.  However, if everyone participates in the discussion, class will be fun and dynamic. 

Students will be responsible for a short assignment, due at the beginning of each week’s section.  These assignments will be geared towards helping students: (1) explore the discussion section topics more thoroughly and (2) practice important scientific skills (reading primary literature, graphing, critical thinking, etc.)  The exact format of these assignments will vary from week to week. 

Students in discussion sections will also work independently to conceptualize, design and perform a behavioral study on an organism of their choosing. After collecting behavioral data, students will analyze them and write up their findings as an original scientific manuscript, consisting of two drafts and a final paper. TAs will provide extensive feedback to students when evaluating the initial drafts, which students can use to help improve their writing before submitting their final paper.


Your section grade will be calculated as follows:

Oral participation:                        20%
Assignments:                              45%
Original research paper:                 35% (10% each for two drafts. 15% for final paper) 

Your total section grade will account for 25% of your final grade in BioNB 2210.  Final section grades will be normalized across all of the 4-credit discussion sections at the end of the semester to account for any grading differences between TAs. 


Many readings are found in the required textbook: Exploring Animal Behavior. Other discussion section readings are available on the course website. 

The syllabus for this year’s discussion section appears below and on the course website:


Materials distributed in this class may be subject to copyright protection.
Please report problems to: