A program that focuses on the scientific study of the psychological and neurological bases of animal sensation, perception, cognition, behavior, and behavioral interactions within and outside the species. Includes instruction in ethology, behavioral neuroscience, neurobiology, behavioral evolution, cognition and sensory perception, motivators, learning and instinct, hormonal controls, reproductive and developmental biology, community ecology, functional behavior, and applications to specific behaviors and patterns as well as to specific phyla and species.
Ethologists and animal behaviorists study animal behaviors and work to understand the instincts behind them.
What do mating dances, migration paths, and aggressive mimicry have in common? They are all aspects of animal behavior studied by ethologists and animal behaviorists. Animals do all kinds of things, and their actions can be categorized as learned or innate. Ethologists believe that the behaviors animals exhibit can offer clues to how they developed over time. The ways they react when threatened, the actions they take to procure food, and the way they interact with others of their kind can all reveal fascinating things about their ancestries and environments.
Most animal behaviorists will have a type of animal they specialize in, such as livestock, pets, or animals raised in captivity; their work tends to occur in controlled environments, whereas ethologists will venture into the field to observe how an animal's environment can inform its actions.Those who study animals in this regard must consider the cause, developmental trajectory, purpose, and evolutionary origin of each behavior they encounter; these questions help them to refine their work and discover exciting new truths that can have a variety of applications.
Work in animal behavior and ethology may include...
- Observing animals to record data on their behaviors
- Determining whether something is a learned or social behavior
- Researching the history and ancestry of a particular species
- Educating the public about animal behaviors
- Creating case studies for animals
Lots of animal behaviorists work in zoos or nature centers, often as animal trainers, park rangers, and conservationists. They may be employed by universities, where they teach or conduct research, or they may work for animal research organizations or companies that make products geared toward animals. Ethologists in particular tend to do more field work where they travel in order to observe animals in their natural habitats; they may be employed by government wildlife agencies to do investigative work. Many animal behaviorists are independent practitioners who help people with pet issues or rehabilitate aggressive animals.
Students with an interest in animal behavior can benefit from studying biology or psychology in some combination at the undergraduate level. Some schools offer Bachelor's degrees in the subject, but even in the absence of a formal program, students can prepare for a career in animal behavior by completing coursework in
evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and ecology. Those who want to conduct their own research will often go to graduate school, as Master's and Doctoral programs in animal behavior offer opportunities to specialize and explore within the discipline. Another path students often take is veterinary school, where their knowledge of animal behaviors can prove a useful diagnostic tool. Those who work professionally as behavioral specialists can seek additional certification if they feel the need to beef up their credentials, and doing so can present many opportunities.
Pursuing a career in animal behavior can be both rewarding and revealing. If you want to understand the complex mechanics behind the actions of animals, maybe it's the field for you.
For more information, please follow the links below:
- The Animal Behavior Society is a professional organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the scientific study of animal behavior.
- The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants is a certifying organization providing evidence-based education, professional development, and networking for animal behavior professionals and the public.
- The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior is a group of veterinarians and doctorate level animal behaviorists dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through an understanding of animal behavior.
- The Animal Behavior Management Alliance consists of animal care professionals and other individuals interested in enhancing animal care through training and enrichment.