Animal Behavior

animal behavior text overlaying several primates


Academic Team:
Frances White (
First-Year Experience Seminar Instructor
Sebastian Vagner (
FIG Assistant

9 credits
UGST 109 First Year Experience Seminar – 1 Credit 
CRN: 16235: F: 2:00PM-2:50PM, CON 104  ANTH 171 
Intro to Monkeys and Apes – 4 Credits 
CRN: 10220: MW: 12:00PM-1:20PM, LLCS 101, +LAB CRN: 10224: T: 12:00PM-12:50PM, CON 204  
BI 121 Intro to Human Physiology- 4 Credits 
CRN: 10749: TR: 8:30AM-9:50AM, WIL 100, +LAB CRN: 10751: R: 4:00PM-4:50PM, HUE 101 

About the FIG:

Animal Behavior draws connections between the biological approach to studying humans and the anthropological focus on primates, and their behavior, to help understand the evolution of human biology, behavior, and intelligence. Thinking about how animals are impacted by humans both positively and negatively, and a Portland Zoo field trip, are important components of this class. The FIG Seminar is a time to engage with both Dr. White and your FIG assistant about the topics you are learning in class, how to succeed in classes, as well as concerns you have about your academic career in general.  

Deep-Dive FIG: Please note this FIG attends multiple mandatory field trips. This course has been vetted by First Year Programs to ensure first-term students can achieve success.

ANTH 171 Introduction to Monkeys and Apes - CoreEd or major satisfying course

This course examines our closest relatives, the Primates (prosimians, monkeys and apes) in an evolutionary context. Humans are more closely related to nonhuman primates than they are to any other group of animals. We share in common with them an array of important adaptive features such as high intelligence, complex communication systems, diverse feeding adaptations and diets, and a reliance on social groups. Understanding of the ecology, behavior, and evolution of non-human primates helps anthropologists to identify and interpret those features that unite us with the Primate Order. Throughout this course, we will look at evolutionary features that define and shape the Order Primates. We will also learn the taxonomy and evolutionary history of the primates, and evaluate the ways in which anatomy and ecology shape primate behavior. Lectures will include information from studies of primates in their natural habitats, and discussions will be oriented to both evolutionary and ecological perspectives.
This course is divided into three sections:

Section 1 runs from the start of the course to first midterm and will examine the theory of evolution, adaptation and the concept of adaptive radiations, as applied to primates. During this time, discussion sections will work on the scientific method and how to generate and test hypotheses and the taxonomy and biogeography of primates.

Section 2 begins after the first midterm and runs to the second midterm exam. In this section will be examine the evolutionary morphology, ecological adaptations, and reproduction in primates.

Section 3 starts after the second midterm and goes to the end of the class. During this time we will look at the evolution of primate behavior and intelligence and the importance of primates in ecological communities. We will end by discussing the relevance of primate studies to understanding humans.

Lab goals: The laboratory sections are a critical part of the course and are designed to develop the important practical skills of observing, measuring, recording, and interpreting scientific data. Through a series of laboratory exercises, these labs will teach you the scientific method and how to write a lab report, as well as provide invaluable hands-on experience handling primate material and collecting and analyzing data.

Required reading materials: The assigned readings will be covered in exams. Readings come from one required custom textbook that is available through the bookstore. This textbook is made up of chapters from three different books, published summary articles and material for the labs, including tear-out lab report pages that will need to be completed and handed in weekly. Some of the material and the references for the rest of the material in the textbook will be available online through Canvas.

BI 121 Introduction to Human Physiology - CoreEd or major satisfying course

Human physiology is simply the study of "what makes us tick." In studying this fascinating and ever-expanding area together, we will rely upon the central-linking theme of homeostasis (balance in the fluid outside of cells) and work to maximize practical application to real-life settings. We will explore the relationships and uniquenesses of structure (anatomy) and function (physiology), and will participate in anatomy & physiology and histology (microscopic anatomy) laboratories. We'll study some basics of cell structure, function and genetics, and examine a special section on nutrition and digestion that includes a unique dietary analysis lab and discussion of recently popular low-carbohydrate diets. Other areas we'll study and questions we'll attempt to answer include how does the heart beat and how is it regulated?, what's the difference between a heart attack and a stroke?, what dietary and exercise modifications can we make to improve our health and fitness for a lifetime?, how do the lungs work?, what happens in a gunshot chest injury?, what's the petri-dish effect?, what are some of the chemicals in conventional and e-cigarettes?, what are long-term effects of smoking?, what are 2nd- and 3rd-hand smoke?, what's fight-or-flight? what are endocrines and how do they work?, how do nerves send rapid signals?, how do muscles shorten and adapt to different exercise stresses? Grades are based on quizzes, lecture attendance and active learning questions, and lab attendance and worksheets.

Meet Your FIG Assistant and Instructor!