During Semester 1, students take two compulsory modules that provide sound training in essential skills for animal behaviour research.
- Mathematical and Statistical Modelling for Biologists: applies mathematical ideas to questions in biology and introduces methods for fitting models to biological data mainly using R software.
- Research Skills for Animal Behaviour: focuses on key skills including experimental design, biologging and telemetry, behaviour genetics, and applications to conservation biology.
In Semester 2, students take the following compulsory module:
- Communication Skills for Animal Behaviour Research: practices key communication skills for modern animal behaviour research, including writing for other scientists, peer review, communicating with the public and outreach.
You will also choose three of the following optional modules:
- Predators and Prey: explore the diverse behaviours that shape the interactions between predators and their prey.
- Cognition: develop an understanding of how animals perceive the world and how their cognitive abilities are shaped by selection.
- Current Issues in Biologging: presents an introduction to the theory and practice of logging and relaying physical and biological data using animal-attached tags.
- The Question of Culture in Animals: discuss the existence and extent of social learning and cultural transmission in non-humans.
- Complex Systems in Animal Behaviour: examine animal behaviour from a complex systems’ perspective, where analyses range from captive housing of entire bird flocks, computer simulation, and use of robots to interact with the animals.
- Scientific Diving: field course located in Indonesia (requires suitable diving qualifications and payment of expedition fee, offered only if international travel conditions allow).
- Predator Ecology in Polar Ecosystems - Antarctica: field course located in southern Argentina and Antarctica (requires payment of an expedition fee which covers all costs, including travel and accommodation). See the students' Antarctic expedition blog. In case of international travel restrictions, this module will be offered as a St Andrews based course focused on polar research methods and data analysis (at no additional cost).
Optional modules are subject to change each year and require a minimum number of participants to be offered; some may only allow limited numbers of students (see the University’s position on curriculum development).
Throughout the academic year, students complete a research project which will culminate in a written dissertation and presentation of a poster at the MSc student conference. Projects will be supervised by Biology staff but may be carried out with joint supervision from staff in other institutions. Students can choose from a range of projects suggested by supervisors and also take an active role in designing their own project plan.
A broad range of research into animal behaviour, ecology and evolution takes places within the Centre for Biological Diversity, and projects will be offered within many of these areas. Below are examples of some of the different topics currently studied within the centre.
- animal cognition in the wild
- animal cultures
- behaviour and speciation in insects
- behaviour of groups and collective behaviour
- behavioural ecology and conservation ecology of birds
- complex biological systems
- evolutionary developmental biology
- fish behaviour and evolution
- insect behavioural ecology and evolution
- social learning.
If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MSc, there are exit awards available that allow suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc.