BSc Animal Behaviour

UCAS codeD391
Duration3 Years
Typical offerAAB-ABB; IB: 34-32
Location Cornwall (Penryn Campus)


Animal Behaviour video

Find out more about the Animal Behaviour programme from staff and students.
View full size.

Animal behaviour aims to understand natural behaviour, how behaviour varies among individuals, species and species groups, how current and past environments and ecology influence behaviour and the underlying gene-environment interactions. The programme highlights the value of studying animals in their natural habitats, utilising the expertise of staff members who run long-term studies of iconic species in the wild. This approach is underpinned by field courses in the second and third years.

Throughout the programme an interdisciplinary approach is encouraged and you will be exposed to a wide range of theoretical and practical techniques used to study animal behaviour. We will provide you with the skills, concepts and experience to understand all aspects of animal behaviour. It covers the evolution and adaptive function of behaviour in the wild, its physiological and neuronal control, and how animals develop socially and cognitively through experience.

Why study Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter?

  • Led by some of the UK’s foremost biologists working in evolution, conservation and ecology
  • Variety of field work opportunities in the UK and overseas
  • Close links with a wide range of conservation organisations
  • State-of-the-art facilities
  • Graduate with outstanding employment prospects

Programme variations

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.

You may take optional modules as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

You may take elective modules up to 30 credits outside of the programme in each stage of the programme as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

Year 1

120 credits of compulsory modules

Compulsory modules

GEO1410Introduction to Human Sciences 15
BIO1411Genetics 15
BIO1415Introduction to Evolution and Behavioural Ecology 15
BIO1417Key Skills in Biological Sciences 15
BIO1418Introduction to Invertebrate Zoology 15
BIO1419Introduction to Vertebrate Zoology 15
BIO1420Physiology 15
BIO1421Field and Laboratory Techniques 15

Year 2

90 credits of compulsory modules, 30 credits of optional modules

Compulsory modules

* You must select at least one field course module from BIO2417, BIO2418, BIO2419 and BIO2440. BIO2417 is the default module and may be substituted with BIO2418, BIO2419 or BIO2440.

BIO2407Population and Community Ecology 15
BIO2422Critical Thinking and Scientific Reasoning 15
BIO2426Analysis of Biological Data 15
BIO2427Animal Ecophysiology 15
BIO2428Development of Behaviour 15
BIO2430Behavioural Ecology 15
Biosciences second year field courses [* Field course - see above]
BIO2417Behaviour and Biodiversity I: Isles of Scilly15
BIO2418Behaviour and Biodiversity II: Northern Cyprus15
BIO2419Practical Skills in Ecology I: Scotland15
BIO2440Practical Skills in Ecology II: Iceland15
BIO2 new module 3 Practical Skills in Ecology III: Pembrokeshire 15

Optional modules

** You may only select one of these modules.

BIO2414Evolutionary Ecology15
BIO2423Wildlife Disease 15
BIO2429Workplace Learning 15
BIO2431 The Biology of Mammals **15
BIO2435Evolutionary Conservation Genetics 15
BIO2437 Biology of Aquatic Vertebrates** 15
BIO2439Biology of Birds 15
BIO2441Applied Insect Ecology 15
ECM2901Mathematics of the Environment II 15
GEO2435Evolution Human Societies 15

Year 3

75 credits of compulsory modules, 45 credits of optional modules

Compulsory modules

*It is compulsory to take a field course in the final year. BIO3405 is the default module and may be substituted with either BIO3122, BIO3403 or BIO3404.

BIO3134Preparing to Graduate 5
BIO3136Research Project 40
Biosciences final year field courses [* Field course - see above]
BIO3122Africa Field Course30
BIO3403Bahamas Field Course30
BIO3404Borneo Tropical Rainforest Biodiversity and Conservation Field Course30
BIO3405Spain Field Course30

Optional modules

* You are also permitted to take the five credit module BIO3406 Biosciences Research Internship in any year. Registration on this module is subject to a competitive application process. If taken, this module will not count towards progression or award calculation.

BIO3116Marine Vertebrate Conservation 15
BIO3128The Behavioural Ecology of Information Use 15
BIO3130Mating Systems Biology 15
BIO3131Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15
BIO3132Reproductive Biology 15
BIO3135Human Behavioural Ecology 15
BIO3400Living in Groups 15
BIO3401Coevolutionary Interactions 15
BIO3402Nature Via Nurture 15
BIO3406Biosciences Research Internship [*see note above]5
BIO3408 Marine Ornithology15
BIO3409 Symbiosis in Marine Systems15
BIO3411Science in Society15
BIO3412Evolution and Ecology of Disease15
BIO3413Animal Life History15

Entry requirements 2015

Typical offer

AAB-ABB; IB: 34-32

Required subjects

GCE AL grade B or IB HL5 in one of the following subjects: Biology/Human Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Maths/Pure Maths/Further Maths. GCSE Maths at grade B.

International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements and may be interested in our Foundation programmes.

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

Learning and teaching

We believe every student benefits from being part of a research-led culture and being taught by experts. Learning and teaching is through lectures, seminars, tutorials, field work, laboratory sessions and independent study with internationally recognised, research-active staff. You will have the opportunity to undertake challenging independent research projects dealing with questions and issues at the cutting edge of life science research. Regular research seminars, by our staff and visiting lecturers, bring you the latest issues on a wide range of research topics.

In your final year you will become an active member of our research team. We have very close links with a wide range of conservation organisations in the UK and overseas, such as the British Trust for Ornithology, Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Marine Conservation Society. These links mean you will benefit from frequent guest lectures, placement opportunities and project work.

We’re actively engaged in introducing new methods of learning and teaching, including increasing use of interactive computer-based approaches to learning through our virtual learning environment, where the details of all modules are stored in an easily navigable website. You can access detailed information about modules and learning outcomes and interact through activities such as the discussion forums.


Assessment methods vary depending on your choice of modules, but are likely to include examinations and coursework-based assessment.

You must pass your first year assessment in order to progress to the second year, but the results do not count towards your degree classification. The assessments in the second and third years contribute to your final degree classification.


Academic support

We pride ourselves on providing a very high standard of care and support to our students. You will have a Personal Tutor who is available for advice and support throughout your studies. There are also a number of services on campus where you can get advice and information.

Peer mentoring

At the University of Exeter we are committed to creating a supportive learning environment in which you will be able to reach your full potential – whatever your ambitions may be. One of the best examples of this has been the introduction of a successful peer tutoring scheme, run by Biosciences students in Cornwall, for students.

As a first year student, you will have the opportunity to join dynamic weekly groups, hosted by both second year and PhD students, which span a range of key areas, such as social and pastoral care, key skills, employability and discipline specific support. One of the main aims of these groups is to give you the opportunity to gain advice from your peers who have been in your position before, and can help ease your transition into university life.

The subject of the inaugural meeting is decided by the group leader, but you then have the opportunity to suggest subsequent session topics. This allows the sessions to be tailored to the direct needs of you and your fellow students. Social media outlets, such as Facebook and Google groups, are also utilised to host dedicated pages that promote continued group discussions and communication outside of the weekly meetings.

In its first year, more than 70 Biosciences students took part in the peer mentoring scheme, being coached by students who are further along in their course and who act as guides to study and university life and offer an additional layer of support. Despite its success, the scheme is continually evolving. In order to ensure you make the most of the groups, there are now more direct links between session content and modules, they will immediately follow lectures where possible, and a large scale awareness campaign will take place at the beginning of the academic year to encourage as many students as possible to participate.

The peer mentoring scheme gives you a wonderful opportunity to help shape your time at University and truly make your mark – your future really is in your own hands.

From the beginning we asked the students to help shape the peer mentoring project. This is a scheme that is run by students, for students, so it is important that we know it is reaching its full potential. I think a lot of students feel that getting advice from their fellow students is both worthwhile and beneficial, and we are keen to actively promote this as much as possible.

But more than that, we want to make sure students are full engaged and thinking not only about their time here, but also their career options once they leave. It is more important than ever to be switched on about making the most of opportunities such as work experience and volunteering, as well as meeting the challenges their studies present.

Already, this scheme has proved popular and successful, and we will ensure that it is always designed with students as the primary focus – we rely on the students not only telling us what is useful but also how to drive it forward.

Dr Andy Pye Senior Academic, Pastoral Tutor and Educational Enhancement Link Advisor Biosciences, Penryn Campus.

Field work

Field work video

Find out the importance of field work to undergraduate programmes in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation. View full size.

Field Course Fortnight

290 students. 27 academics. 7 field courses. 5 countries. 4 continents. January 2015. Join us!

Field work is an essential aspect of all undergraduate programmes offered by our Centre for Ecology and Conservation in Cornwall and for the majority of our programmes you will have opportunities to undertake field courses in both the second and final years.

Second year students can choose from the following destinations*:

Third year students can choose from the following destinations*:

* Field course destinations may be subject to change.

Example of field work - South Africa

The South Africa field course, frequently described as the ‘trip of a lifetime’, includes visits to a range of important habitats and reserves. You will gain first-hand experience of many of the organisms, concepts and principles that you have spent the previous few years learning about. We spend a week in the Western Cape which is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots followed by a week in the game reserves of the Kwazulu-Natal. We aim to cover a range of subjects from the problems of conservation in a developing country, through population ecology to animal behaviour and you will have the chance to see a huge variety of species from Great White Sharks to the Big Five.

Elements covered on the Africa field course include:

  • Safari
  • Contrasting African ecosystems
  • Philosophy, sociology, ecology and practice of large-scale conservation
  • Population/community and behavioural ecology
  • Project design, supervision and management


A degree in Animal Behaviour from the University of Exeter will provide you with a wide range of skills which will be useful for your future study or employment. Our BSc Animal Behaviour will help you develop skills in: scientific methods of data collection; researching, analysing and assessing sources; written and verbal communication; managing and interpreting information; and developing ideas and arguments.

A career in the field of animal behaviour is both challenging and enjoyable. On graduation you will be well placed to apply your knowledge to a research career, or to the management, conservation and welfare of wild, captive and domestic animals. You may wish to pursue further study through a Masters or PhD, or a career:

  • in the field of ecological consultancy
  • as a research officer, assistant or technician (field or lab) in a university, non-profit organisation (including wildlife NGOs), government organisation, business, or zoo
  • in the field of ecotourism
  • as a science teacher
  • as a wildlife film maker

Developing your skills and career prospects

Biosciences provide a range of support and opportunities to help you develop skills that are attractive to employers. Visit our Careers and Employability web page for more information.

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of University of Exeter Biosciences undergraduate programmes in Cornwall. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2011/12. Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Trainee Ranger
Volunteer Trainee Nature Reserve Warden
Community Engagement Trainee
Research Assistant
Education Assistant
Animal Attendant
Zoo Keeper
Relief Ecological Assistant
Manager of Countryside Services
National Trust
University of Exeter
Kent Wildlife Trust
Dartmoor Zoological Park
Wildlife Trust
Dolphin Population Ecology
The Mammal Society
University of Cambridge
The Countryside Education Trust
Longleat Safari and Adventure Park
Warwickshire County Council
Countryside Services
Atlantic Whale Foundation

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from a Biosciences undergraduate degree in Cornwall. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates of undergraduate programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2011/12. Please note that, due to data protection, the subjects of study and institutions are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Subject areaInstitution
Conservation and biodiversity
Marine conservation
Countryside management
Aquatic biosciences
Practical conservation, management and education
Veterinary medicine
Environmental management
Animal behaviour
University of York
University of Exeter
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Liverpool
Bangor University
Uppsala University

Find out more

Further information about the opportunities the University of Exeter offers to maximise the employment prospects of our graduates employment prospects can be found on the CareerZone website.

The Biosciences staff at the Penryn Campus are extremely helpful and always willing to go above and beyond to make sure we have the correct support. The career focused activities done recently are an example of this where lecturers are willing to put in a lot of effort to help us. Generally any issues we have can be sorted and the lecturers care about (and can recognise) every individual student. I feel honoured to have studied under such leading scientists.

Biosciences undergraduate student, Penryn Campus

Contact us

Penryn Campus, Cornwall

Phone: +44 (0)1326 371801

Streatham Campus, Exeter

Phone: +44 (0)1392 725818

Website: Visit the Biosciences website