Our Program and Courses

Animal Behavior Studies is a major at F&M. You will study the biological and social reasons for animal behavior, as well as how these behaviors affect the world around us in terms of conservation, education, and the environment. Hands-on learning is a critical focus of the curriculum. You will have the opportunity to work directly in the laboratory, field, zoos and other countries with many animal species, such as aquatic invertebrates, fish, mammals, reptiles, and birds. Our animal behavior program focuses on the larger-scale consequences of behavior; if you are interested in the smaller-scale forces that drive behavior, explore our neuroscience program

By the time you graduate, you will be able to demonstrate: 

  • A knowledge of the biological and social basis for basic animal behavior.
  • A complex understanding of how animals and their environments coexist and rely on one another.
  • The ability to understand, perform, and report on the results of experiments and research.
  • An eye for identifying areas of research that would benefit from additional support or data, and follow through with collecting that data.
  • Critical and analytical thinking and the ability to communicate observations and discoveries through the printed and spoken word.
  • The ability to collaborate effectively in a manner that translates to the professional arena.

Wondering what Animal Behavior Studies courses are like? Explore our course catalog to see what classes are available to you.

Our Faculty & Staff

Daniel R Ardia

Charles A. Dana Professor of Biology, Associate Dean of the Faculty

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Science, Technology and Society

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Meredith J Bashaw

Professor of Psychology, Department Chair of Psychology

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

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Gabriel S Brandt

Associate Professor of Chemistry

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Nicole R Fickes

Academic Department Coordinator

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Aaron F Howard

Teaching Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Data Science

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Lauren H Howard

Associate Professor of Psychology & Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind

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Robert N Jinks

Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Ryan T Lacy

Associate Professor of Psychology

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Clara S Moore

Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies

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Timothy C Roth

Associate Professor of Psychology, Program Chair of Biological Foundations of Behavior

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Joe Thompson

Dr. E. Paul & Frances H. Reiff Professor of Biology

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Learning Outside the Classroom

With the diversity of animal life present across the planet, you’re encouraged to expand your learning experience beyond F&M’s campus and coursework. With our many research and study-abroad opportunities, you’ll step outside the structure of the classroom, go beyond reading textbooks and listening to lectures, and embark on your own journeys in animal behavior. 

Research Opportunities

The hallmark of F&M’s Animal Behavior Studies major is working side-by-side with our faculty, who are dedicated teachers and active researchers. You’ll find incredible opportunities to dive into research — including in our on-campus vivarium — to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the challenges of scientifically exploring the behaviors and minds of animals. Your original research projects may lead to the presentation of your results at national and international professional conferences or even your co-authorship in journal publications. Learn more about how our students at F&M have extraordinary opportunities to engage in independent or faculty-led research.
Explore research at F&M

Off-Campus Study

To push the boundaries of the learning experience, students regularly choose to study abroad. Our students have visited Ireland, Russia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Austria, and Australia.
Explore off-campus study at F&M

Honors in Animal Behavior Studies

Completing research or an independent study could also lead you to earn honors in Animal Behavior Studies. To be considered for honors, you must first complete an advanced research project and be sponsored by a professor. Once these steps are complete, you will present your research findings to faculty and students.

Our Facilities

The William M. Hackman Physical Sciences Laboratories

The Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building gives you access to state-of-the-art resources for studying animal behavior, including access to the teaching and research laboratories in animal behavior, behavioral ecology and comparative psychology.


F&M’s Vivarium is a behavioral research facility that houses a variety of rodents, reptiles, birds, fish, invertebrates, and nonhuman primates that supports student-focused learning and scientific research. Students from a wide diversity of backgrounds work with BFB faculty and Vivarium staff to gain hands-on experience with numerous areas of neurological and behavioral research, animal-welfare study, and training in animal husbandry and care. Our nonhuman primate research centers on behavior and cognition. We are the only institution in the United States offering direct access to onsite, nonhuman primates through an established program built around primate training, enrichment, research, and animal caretaking. In fact, we have a brand new Animal Husbandry & Primate Training Certificate that includes formal academic training designed to develop students’ abilities to professionally care for animals. Over 100 students per year work in the F&M Vivarium for course credit, as paid researchers, or as volunteers throughout the academic year and summer.

Success Beyond F&M

Once you have completed your degree, you might wonder what’s next. F&M students graduate with all the skills they need to succeed after college, whether your next step is graduate school, vet school, or a career working directly with animals. The intellectual and experiential activities that make up the work of animal behavior — including experimental research, data gathering, collaborating with others, and critical thought — help you develop useful and productive skills valuable for any post-college plan.

Graduate School

Many graduates of our animal behavior program go on to pursue advanced degrees in a variety of disciplines, including veterinary medicine, animal science and animal biosciences. They attended top institutions such as: 

  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Cornell University
  • Columbia University
  • Long Island University College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Rutgers University
  • Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine

Career Paths

Animal Behavior Studies graduates are prepared to embark on a vast array of careers working directly with animals and engaging in research. They hold positions such as: 

  • Animal Caretaker
  • Animal Husbandry Technician
  • Medical Assistant
  • Naturalist/Behavioral Ecologist
  • Primate Research Assistant
  • Research Scientist
  • Science Writer
  • Veterinarian
  • Veterinarian Surgical Assistant
  • Zookeeper

Student Spotlight

“There's a theatre program, there's a Jewish community, and there's one of the strongest animal behavior programs in the country.”

This unique combination of elements brought Shoshana Frank ’24, of Buffalo Grove, Ill., to Franklin & Marshall. Frank, a double major in animal behavior and theatre, contributes to all three on campus. Along with her thespian pursuits, she’s an active member of Chabad and works in the campus vivarium.
Read More »

Alumni Spotlight

A Survey on Biodiversity

On a crisp morning during reading days, William Li '23 refilled bird feeders at Baker Campus, a wide swath of green space abutting the Spalding woodlands. “Last year, I started a survey on biodiversity and Baker Campus,” said Li, an animal behavior major and Russian studies minor from Hong Kong. Li has tracked woodpeckers, juncos and a variety of sparrows. “Over time, the birds will form their territories along the woods’ edge next to the feeder," he said.
Read More »

Related Fields of Study

Animal Husbandry & Primate Training (Certificate)

Certificates are supplemental educational pathways you can pursue at F&M. Each certificate explores new and innovative fields of study through the lens of two or more fields of study. The Animal Husbandry & Primate Training certificate develops your abilities to care for animals professionally as well as to reflect on your experiences as an element of humans’ relationships with the natural world.


The biological sciences expand and advance frontiers of knowledge about all forms of life. From molecules to ecosystems, from oceans to deserts, from the distant past to present day, biology gives you insights into other species, ourselves, and our world.


Embark on a journey of the mind and learn all about why we do the things we do. From non-human animal behavior to language development and neurological impairment, your time spent studying psychology at F&M will unlock a whole new world of understanding of how the brain works.

Explore Animal Behavior Studies at F&M

June 8, 2023

A Morning at Spalding Conservancy

Take a stroll through Franklin & Marshall's Spalding Conservancy on any given day, and you might just find yourself in the middle of a student research project. The 54-acre property is home to...Franklin & Marshall's Spalding Conservancy is home to 54 acres of flora, fauna and countless student and faculty fieldwork projects.

April 9, 2021

Always Handle Reptiles With Care

A research project to evaluate whether positive human interactions could improve the welfare of leopard geckos led to questions in Franklin & Marshall College's Biological Foundations of Behavior...Franklin & Marshall College offers students a hands-on education that emphasizes close relationships with faculty. Students flourish in a supportive community that treats them as an individual, and their successes continue long after F&M. The College is a national leader in launching students and alumni to opportunities where they make a difference in the community and the world.

July 15, 2020

Do Chimpanzees Grieve Like Humans?

A study of wild chimpanzees led by a Franklin & Marshall College professor and her student researchers suggest that chimpanzees may grieve similarly to humans. Franklin & Marshall College offers students a hands-on education that emphasizes close relationships with faculty. Students flourish in a supportive community that treats them as an individual, and their successes continue long after F&M. The College is a national leader in launching students and alumni to opportunities where they make a difference in the community and the world.