Not too easy. Not too difficult.
Dr. Plotnik assembles a relevant, interesting, and engaging curriculum. His classes are not just simply sit, listen, and digest. They are dynamic, interactive, and explore difficult subjects where he encourages his students to consider and be mindful of the various perspectives involved in animal behavior and conservation.
I learned about animal behavior and found that animals are similar to humans in terms of being able to communicate with others, displaying emotions (such as fear), and taking care of young. However, animals are unique in their own right so it's best to refrain from anthropomorphizing them too much. What I found compelling was the different antipredator strategies animals have. For instance, some animals feign injury to avoid getting eaten, play dead (thanatosis), some evolved sentinel behavior (in which they are able to communicate to others that a predator is nearby), use camouflage, aposematism, and crypsis. I also learned about the different levels of analysis: proximate and ultimate. Ultimately, an animal's goal is to increase its inclusive fitness or the ability to pass on its genes to the next generation. Animals have to constantly weigh the costs and benefits regarding food choice, territory location, how many offspring they're going to have, etc. This course also explains the evolution of human behavior. Why do pregnant women have morning sickness? Why do indigenous people of one country eat more spices than another? These are just a few of the many questions this course dives into.
Hours per week:
Advice for students:
The exams are based on his lectures. You have to attend class if you want to do well. You can get an A if you just take notes during class and review his powerpoint slides. This is a class where you actually learn something that you will keep forever. There are 2 short papers and 4 exams (the lowest is dropped).