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PhD Programs in Animal Behavior

by Jeanette Garcia

Animal behaviorists study the factors that influence animal behavior, analyze shifts in behavior patterns and categorize behavior as either learned or instinctive. Few Ph.D. programs focus on animal behavior since most other programs emphasize general biological sciences or animal sciences. However, there are a few notable Ph.D. programs dedicated to the study of animal behavior.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University offers a Ph.D. in animal behavior. The degree blends knowledge in physiology, genetics, ecology, anthropology, kinesology, statistics, applied science, neuroscience, evolution and psychology. The program calls for field and lab research and a one-hour seminar each semester. Students must also complete 84 credit hours, defend a research proposal and complete a dissertation that will be evaluated by the supervisory committee. The program has two required classes: Research Strategies in Animal Behavior and Current Issues in Animal Behavior. Elective courses include population and community ecology, bioimaging, neuroanatomy, scientific computing, endocrine physiology, primate paleobiology, cognitive psychology, comparative animal physiology and sampling methodology.

University of California, Davis

The University of California, Davis also offers a Ph.D. program in animal behavior. The program is designed for students to graduate in approximately five years with a strong comprehension of animal science, zoology, anthropology, veterinary science, wildlife biology, psychology, ecology, physiology, research and teaching. Core classes include Scientific Approaches to Animal Behavior, Fundamentals of Animal Behavior, Advanced Statistical Analysis and Seminar in Animal Behavior. In addition, there are six required elective units. The university recommends that the electives include a class on teaching science or a course on statistics or modeling. Students are also advised to have a minimum of 30 hours of teaching courses, which include either helping with laboratory or field courses and giving lectures to undergraduate students. The Animal Behavior Graduate Group provides grant assistance for the first year and limited support for the years that follow. Students complete core and elective coursework, a qualifying examination, a dissertation proposal and the completion and defense of a dissertation.

Emory University

Emory University in Atlanta offers a Ph.D. in neuroscience and animal behavior with an emphasis on acquired behavior, physiological psychology and ethology. Courses in the program focus on the connections between brain and behavior, as well as evolution and individual adaptive behaviors. Students engage in research using animal subjects to comprehend how animal behavior and cognition connect to human behavior. Research is performed at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. The university looks for applicants who have shown interest in the areas of evolutionary and neural behavior, sensory systems, social behavior, animal cognition and behavioral endocrinology.

Other Options

Other notable programs include the Animal Behavior and Comparative Psychology Ph.D. program offered by City University of New York. The program provides a foundation in comparative practices and evolution, and its curriculum focuses on evaluating behavioral diversity, the intricacies of cognition, and communication and recognition in animals. The classes required to earn the degree include two courses in statistics, teaching of psychology, Animal Behavior I: Neuroethology and Mechanisms, Animal Behavior II: Behavioral Ecology and Evolution, research methods and rotations, and two classes of laboratory or field work. Three electives are also required in at least two of the three main subject areas: Psychological Processes, Mechanisms of Behavior and Behavior in Context. Students dedicate two years to coursework and three years to researching and writing their dissertation.

About the Author

Jeanette Garcia works as an adjunct professor for writing and rhetoric I and II and as a writing tutor at Florida International University. When she's not sleeping, eating, teaching, watching films or reading, she writes.

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