Ecology of Fear – Instructor’s Guide

Goals of the Ecology of Fear Investigation

Build student skills in:

  • reading scientific papers, especially methods sections,
  • designing and conducting an experiment,
  • collecting and evaluating scientific data,
  • understanding and using basic statistics,
  • scientific communication,
  • constructing an argument from data.

Data Sets

This exercise is based in part on the following peer-reviewed literature:

  • Li et al. (2011) Quantifying human disturbance on antipredator behavior and flush initiation distance in yellow-bellied marmots. Applied Animal Behaviour Science (129) pp. 146-152.
  • Peckarsky et al. (2002) Predator chemicals induce changes in mayfly life history. Ecology. 83(3). pp. 612-618.
  • Peckarsky et al. (2008) Revisiting the classics: considering nonconsumptive effects in textbook examples of predator-prey interactions. Ecology 89(9) pp. 2416-2425
  • Haskins et al. (2007) Selective use of the primary literature transforms the classroom into a virtual laboratory. Genetics 176:1381-1389.

Teaching Strategies

Potential Additional Reading Assignments for Students

Suggestions for Pre-Assignment Lecture Topics and Tools

The content (Ecology of Fear) is meant as a companion and supplement to instruction on trophic relationships. Nonconsumptive interactions are not typically highlighted in introductory biology and ecology texts, but have been shown to be important in a variety of systems and species interactions. See Peckarsky et al., 2008 for a discussion.

The two case studies in the Ecology of Fear module highlight and document some “fear-driven” behaviors and consequences of those modifications in animal behavior. Important note: the use of the term “fear” to describe behavior modification in organisms like mayflies is somewhat sensationalistic, but intended to pique student interest in nonconsumptive species interactions.

Instructional Strategies Behind the Investigation

We have focused the module investigation on experimental design in animal behavior because students often struggle with 1) stating testable hypotheses from their own questions or observations and 2) designing experiments to test their hypotheses. Animals are good subjects for inquiry as they are accessible to most people in most environments.

The illustrations of the method sections in each case study are intended to help beginning students visualize methods and variables in each study. Reference Haskins et al., 2007 if you are interested in having your students construct their own illustrations from published works.