Animal Ecology


About this course

The course provides a deeper understanding of animal-animal, animal-food and animal-environment interactions at various integration levels. At the lowest integration level we will deal with the characteristics of food and foragers, especially herbivores with their feeding adaptations. Attention will be paid to the role of body weight as an important determinant in many foraging traits. Optimal foraging theory lies at the heart of foraging decisions of animals and therefore ample attention will be given to the factors shaping functional response curves, diet selection, patch choice, habitat selection and activity patterns. We will address how environmental stressors affect physiology and behaviour. Movement ecology deals with searching for resources at a small scale, and migration at a larger scale Interspecific interactions are thought to play a major role in shaping animal communities and trophic patterns, and the focus will be on competitive, facilitative and predatory interactions. At the highest level of integration, the structure and functioning of animal communities will be discussed, including which factors determine population size, birth, mortality and migration. We will further explain what mechanisms underlie the large impact of animals on their environment, and the determinants of their distribution. Finally, we discuss the influence of humans on ecosystems in a historical and evolutionary context. These issues will be addressed during the lectures, practical modelling and field practical.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • Summarize the major physiological and behavioural adaptations of animals to search for food and habitat
  • Apply current theories about animal-animal, animal-food and animal-habitat interactions at various spatial and temporal scales
  • Set up an experiment to test hypotheses about animal foraging behaviour and analyse and present the collected data
  • Analyse and evaluate models of the effect of foraging animals on ecosystem dynamics and write a scientific paper about the findings

Required prior knowledge

Mandatory Knowledge:
ZSS06200 Fieldwork Safety
Assumed Knowledge:
PEN10503 Ecology I or WEC21306 Introduction in Animal Ecology; WEC31806 Ecological Methods 1

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    12 May 2025

    • Ends
      4 July 2025
    • Term *
      Period 6
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 6 Apr 2025
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University