Psychology 403, Section Q1

Animal Navigation and Wayfinding

1997 Fall Session, Wednesday, 1830-2130


Michael Snyder

Phone: 492-5175/492-5325
Web Site URL:
Office: BSB P-545
Office Hours: By appointment


1. Course Description
2. Course Ideology
3. Required Text
4. Course Requirements
5. Policy on Late Assignments
6. Policy on Plagarism
7. Student Evaluation
8. Class Schedule
9. Course Readings
10. Miscellaneous
11. Copyright Clause
12. Final Course Grades
13. New Stuff on the Site

Course Description

This course will examine the processes used by animals in navigation and wayfinding, including egocentric and geocentric spatial representations, dead reckoning, and cognitive maps. The first several weeks of the course will provide a phylogenetic survey of animal navigation techniques. The remainder of the course will be devoted to considering a variety of relevant topics. These may include: the existence of cognitive maps, the usefulness of path integration, neurological mechanisms for spatial navigation (e.g., the value of the hippocampus), how scale (i.e., long distance migrations vs. short foraging trips) effects navigational, computer based simulation of navigation, and the merit of different approaches to the study of navigation (e.g., ethology, comparative animal behaviour, behavioural ecology).

Course Ideology

This is a fourth year seminar course. As such, students will be expected (and required) to contribute to the class. The ability to write comprehensively and communicate orally are absolutely necessary for students who wish to continue on with graduate school (one can argue that these skills are also required to the same degree in most other careers, as well). Therefore, this course will endeavour to stress these skills.

Required Text

Wehner,R., Lehrer, M., and Harvey, W.R. (eds.) 1996. Journal of Experimental Biology, volume 199. (Cambridge, Great Britain: The Company of Biologists, Ltd.).

Course Requirements

Class participation (10%) Short oral presentation (10%) Critical review paper (10%) Log book (20%) Research topic Final Exam (0%)
Important Dates
AssignmentDue Date
Short oral presentations24 September to 15 October
Critical review paper15 October
First log book22 October
Second log book3 December
Research proposal1 October
Research presentation22 October to 3 December
Research paper3 December

Policy on Late Assignments

Generally, I am not impressed when I receive assignments late. That being said, I am also well aware of the time constraints put upon students these days. So here is how I am going to work it for your written assignments (the research proposal, critical review paper, and research paper): You can get one day of grace on an assignment for every day before the assignment is due in which you notify me that you will be late getting the project in, up to five days.

For example, all assignments are due in class on Wednesday. So, if you notify me on Monday that your assignment will not be available on Wednesday, you will have until Friday at 1630 hours (when the Psychology office closes) to get the work in. If you had notified me on the previous Friday you would have had until the Monday after the assignment was due (i.e., five days).

If you fail to notify me that your work will be late, of if you subsquently exceed the time extension, you will lose 10% of the assignment's grade per day that it is late.

Sorry, but this offer does notapply to the short oral presentation or research presentation. It also does not apply to the log book, as this is something you should be working on consistently throughout the course.

Of course, the standard rules for missing assignments concerning death in the family, major illness (i.e., not the sniffles), and the like apply. Medical forms will be required. In the case of missed presentations they will be rescheduled at my discretion.

Policy on Plagarism

Simply put, I do not tolerate plagiarism. It is, in essence, intellectual theft. Plagiarism occurs when a person passes off the words, ideas, images, or data of another person as their own (see section of the University Calendar for more details). When writing your papers make sure you use references properly. If you are unsure of what you have to reference, or what a proper reference format is, ask me.

Plagiarism is viewed as a serious academic offences by the U of A and by the Campus Law Review Committee of General Faculties Council. Penalties for plagiarism offences range from a reprimand to expulsion from the University.

Student Evaluation

This course is not marked on a curve. Rather, grades are assigned based on absolute scores. The reasons for this are threefold: First, the class size is too small to allow for a normal distribution (required for marking on a curve). Second, one does not expect a normal distribution at the fourth year level. Third, I do not want you competing against one another for nines; compete against yourself and get along with your classmates.

Class Schedule

Class Schedule
110 SeptemberIntroduction,
 Lecture notes
217 SeptemberInvertebrate
Select short oral presentation topics,
Select times for research presentations
Lecture overheads
324 SeptemberVertebrate
Short oral presentations begin Lecture overheads
41 OctoberPath integration and
cognitive mapping
Short oral presentations,
Research proposals due
Lecture overheads
58 OctoberLandmarksShort oral presentations  
615 OctoberCelestial navigationShort oral presentations,
Critical review paper due
722 OctoberOlfactory navigationResearch presentations begin,
First log book due
Lecture overheads
829 OctoberEcolocation and sonarResearch presentations Lecture overheads
95 NovemberMagnetic navigationResearch presentations Lecture overheads
1012 NovemberFood caching birds
and the hippocampus
Research presentations Lecture overheads
1119 NovemberMigrationResearch presentations Lecture overheads
1226 NovemberHuman navigationResearch presentations Lecture overheads
133 DecemberModeling navigationResearch presentations,
Research papers due,
Second log book due
Lecture overheads

This schedule is subject to change after the course begins.

Course Readings

There are both required and recommended readings for this course. Most of the required readings are from the "text" (i.e., the Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 199). However, for some weeks there are required readings that are not from the text. These will be placed in the Cameron Library Reserve Room. Students must read the recommended readings.

Recommended readings may either be from the text or, if from another source, will be available from the Cameron Library Reserve Room. Students do not have to read the recommended readings, but might find them useful and interesting.

To see the reading list for the course, click here.


Check here for a list of Workshops, Seminars, and Training Courses that may be of assistance to students.

Copyright Clause

Take this link to view the legalese that relates to the
copyright information pertaining to the course web pages.

Final Course Grades

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final grades for the course.

New Stuff on the Site

Take this link to see what and when
new items have been added to the course site.
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Page constructed: 25 August 1997 --- Last modified: 1 December 1997