Animal Biology and Behavioural Courses

Invertebrate Zoology (BIOL 2411)

The “invertebrates” comprise >95% of all animal species – so they are worth getting to know. This course is a wild romp through the invertebrate phyla, from sponges to scorpions and sea stars to sea squirts. Join this class and you will learn what a snail’s tongue looks like, why a horseshoe crab is not really a crab, and how a sea cucumber breathes through its anus! An emphasis is placed on understanding the ecology and evolution of these spineless wonders. Hands on activities in the lab, in addition to two field trips to local mudflats and rocky shores, will give you a new perspective of the invertebrate world.

Introduction to Vertebrates (BIOL 2441)

You’re not spineless – you are a vertebrate! Embrace your inner mammal and walk on the wild side for a few hours each week. Discover what you have in common with other major vertebrate groups (birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish). Appreciate the specific evolutionary adaptations that make each group the master of its particular ecological niche. Lectures are offset with weekly labs that highlight vertebrate lifestyles and adaptations, explained through media presentations, tissue dissections and examination of study specimens. The material will prepare you for courses in a broad selection of fields, including veterinary and human medicine, and ecology.

Animal Behaviour (BIOL 3503)

How well do you understand the birds and the bees? Did you train your family pet, or did it train you? This course will appeal to anyone who has ever spent time watching animals and wondering about their behaviours. Join us as we examine the underlying mechanisms that influence lifestyle decisions shared by all animals, including where to live, what to eat, who to mate with, and who to avoid. Discover how specific behaviours evolved and continue to develop, as we conduct fieldtrips to observe animals in their natural habitats and compare those with lab observations. Animal behaviour crosses numerous disciplines and will prepare students interested in psychology, ecology, veterinary sciences, medicine, and understanding why their cat ignores them in favour of the food dish!

Entomology (BIOL 3431)

Entomological diversity is astounding. Bugs rule!  — at least by numbers of species. By the end of the course you will be able to identify most insects to family and have an understanding of which ones are pests, which bite and which are just fascinating (even if most people are afraid of them). You can act smug when someone shrieks at a large bug that will never harm them. Assignments include an insect collection and/or suite of photographs. Collections and records provide important information as we try to understand the geographic distributions of insects in Cape Breton and information for assessing species at risk in Canada. You will learn and contribute to our understanding of insects at the same time. Knowing the insects of Cape Breton provides an excellent platform for anyone interested in wildlife management, forestry, agriculture, or conservation biology.

Ornithology (BIOL 3451)

The only true ‘bird’ course offered at CBU will familiarize you with the birds of Cape Breton and introduce you to the field of avian ecology. Can you distinguish a diver from a dabbler, a hen from a harrier, a sparrow from a Swainson’s Hawk? Birds can see in ultraviolet, are as smart as mammals, and can sense barometric pressure (use a bird feeder to predict storm days). Get out of the classroom – enhance your species identification skills through field trips as well as focused lab activities. You don’t need to be a bird nerd to enjoy this course. It is ideal for beginner or advanced birders, and those interested in bird ecology, behaviour, and anatomy.

General Parasitology (BIOL 4241)

To what extent are cultural differences in human behaviour the result of parasites manipulating our brains? How did parasites defeat the French in their attempt to build a sea-level Panama Canal? And just what is the cause of swimmer’s itch? If these questions interest you and you have a stomach for the weird and parasitological, then take this course! Parasites have plagued humans for thousands of years and continue to do so today, with malaria and schistosomiasis accounting for millions of deaths annually. Lectures address questions pertaining to the ecology, evolution, and life-cycles of parasites relevant to human health and domesticated animals. Labs provide the chance to get to know your parasites and become proficient in techniques for finding, identifying, and preserving parasite specimens. The lab activities culminate in a formal necropsy at the end of the semester. This course is a “must” for those with interests in the medical or veterinary sciences.

Insect Biology and Systematics (BIOL 4431)

You have taken Entomology and now you comprehend the true rulers of the Earth are insects! Why waste your time with any other organisms? Prepare to delve deeper into the fascinating world of insects with Insect Biology and Systematics. This course will emphasize insect systematics, phylogenetics, structure, function and biogeography. Through field collections, curation of the CBU collection, oral presentations and research papers, students will develop expertise in these areas of entomology.

Ichthyology: The Biology of Fishes (BIOL 4453)

Want to be able to identify some common local fish? Then this is the course for you! Besides that, you’ll learn a lot about the evolution of fishes and the relationships between different groups. We will examine morphology, physiology, behaviour, and ecology of fishes. From a broader perspective, we will look at conservation management of fish habitat, populations and ecosystems, and the importance of fishing in Nova Scotia. Labs are very hands-on! We will examine fishes to compare anatomical differences between groups, study bone structure, and you’ll learn how to count and measure features that are important for fish identification. You’ll discover how to determine age and track the growth of fishes and how to use this data to reveal facets of their life history. You’ll also become familiar with some common parasites of fishes. Along with one or two field trips to learn how to collect and handle fish, most years, we also go on a tour of the Margaree Fish Hatchery.