Stark - Animal behavior course

General comments

When I was a senior in Columbia College, I took a graduate course in animal behavior from David W. Ehrenfeld. His special interest was in sea turtles. I had learned that he had both an MD and a PhD, (was that true?) and I was very impressed. In graduate school, I majored in physiological paychology and I minored in animal behavior. Chuck Snowdon was a starting professor, with special interets in chicadees and teaching animal behavior, when I was a starting graduate student. I also ran into Jack Hailman. It was amazing that I could get a degree involving animal behavior without even seeing the famous Harry Harlow. When I was interviewing at Johns Hopkins, Mary Ainsworth, a full professor in child psychology said "of course you'll teach comparative psychology." The words "comparative psychology, what's that?" were on my tongue when I decided it was prudent to play along.

When I was assistant professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins, I taught "Mechanisms of animal behavior 3 times." I also taught this as "Comparative psychology" 2 times in the evening college. I used books by Eibl-Eibesfelt (Ethology, the biology of behavior), Marler and Hamilton (Mechanisms of animal behavior) and Brown (The evolution of behavior). I supplemented these with readings from Scientific American and Science. In addition to tests, students wrote papers.

Twice, working with me, students (Albert Tramposch and Karin Hu) offered a short animal behavior course between semesters (minimester courses). Twice I offered a graduate evening college course in behavior genetics that grew out of my animal behavior course (as well as several offerings of topical seminars in behavior genetics). During these years of teaching animal behavior, two graduate students, Karin Hu and John Bruno (both of whom went on to academic careers) were my TAs. When I had a fellowship Fall, 1978, the course was still offered with excellent reviews.

At first, I loved teaching the course, telling Roeder's story about moths evading bats, von Frisch's story about bee communication, Keeton's story about bird navigation by magnetic cues, Eckert's and Kung's stories about paramecium behavior and its mutants. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that animal behavior was not even a discipline that could be taught in a course. Rather, it was a series of unrelated stories. Each required background to be understood and sometimes lacked closure, When my friends Terry and Gerry Audesirk changed from studying snail nervous system to studying lead poisoning, she justified this abrubt transition by saying "neuroethology is the broken promise," hitting the nail right on the head.


History of issues and ideas
Comparative psychology vs ethology
Evolution and genetics
Nature vs nurture
Mechanism vs vitalism
Convergent vs divergent evolution

Fixed action patterns
Innate releasing mechanisms

Reflex vs command control of behavior

Ontology of bird song

Biological clocks

Energy-emitted orientation
Bats vs moths
Electric fish

Homing & migration
Birds and fish

General intraspecific
Hormones and courtship
Chemical communication
Bees (and other social insects)


Interspecific communication
Social parasitism

Individual distance

Social behavior
Mating groups

Primate Sociality

Some compliments from students

Good lecture - fine personality - knows the subject matter, all around good person to listen to

Very bright and well organized. Lectures were substantive and interesting. He knows the material well.

Interested and enthusiastic about subject matter & knows it. Relates to students, tries to meet their needs

Very good lecturer - well prepared - interested and interesting

A clear concise organized lecturer, planned material well; is witty and interesting

Very good, interesting & to the point

Very good lecturer. Managed to make sense out of it. The topics were great

Good lectures, interesting. To the point.

I thought your lectures were very thorough, well-organized and clear.

Dr. Stark, you got one hell of a brain. Keep up the great [work] and best of luck. You really set [the topics] in the right order

You would have to be good at this hour of the night for anyone to come and stay awake

Presented information well

One of the few courses at Hopkins I was interested in. Since I want to learn things in a different manner than is normally done at Hopkins (memorizing), I was extremely satisfied w/ course

All the topics were very interesting

The course provided an excellent historical backdrop which I have already made use of in genetics (eugenics, suppression of recessives,...). The course has provided me with an opportunity to study in depth one field that has interested me greatly (my paper topic) & things I probably would not have done had the paper not been required.

Good. Lots of good examples. Excellent topics.

Enjoyable; it's nice to not be put to sleep! Organization good.

I enjoyed the lectures which chiefly served to highlight the most important points from the readings

A good variety of topics was covered

Stark kept pace reasonable and slow; I appreciate being able to leave a lecture fully understanding what was discussed

I enjoyed the topics on migration and bird song, communication, territoriality and a few others. Very helpful and willing to give time to help

Interesting course. Dr. Stark related with his students well.

Instructor well prepared for class & conveyed information well

[Topics] followed well, good, interesting material made more so by the readings & lectures. Lectures were stimulating, interesting, and contained the facts needed to learn the topics.

Generally very interesting

Very interesting and worthwhile

I liked the course. I like trivia about animals

Seemed to be a broad selection of basic animal behavior topics.

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