Stark - Animal behavior course
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
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
Bats vs moths
Homing & migration
Birds and fish
Hormones and courtship
Bees (and other social insects)
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
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
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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