Animal Behavior, PhD

Program Description

Degree Awarded: Animal Behavior, PhD

The PhD program in animal behavior is a transdisciplinary graduate degree program that provides doctoral-level training in mechanistic and functional approaches to understanding behavior in a variety of animal taxa.

The study of behavior is at the interface of several scientific disciplines, including anatomy, ecology, evolution, neuroscience and physiology. This program offers the diverse but specialized array of skills and knowledge needed to produce excellent research in animal behavior.

Students gain knowledge and skills with applied scientific value in areas such as veterinary science and mental and behavioral health in humans. The ecological focus of the program feeds into local, state and global priorities in biological conservation and ecosystem sustainability.


In this degree program, you will receive training in both classic and cutting-edge concepts and techniques in the field, and develop research competence in animal behavior that integrates approaches from many areas, including:

  • anthropology, applied science (e.g. domestication, conservation)
  • ecology, evolution, kinesiology
  • mathematics, neuroscience, physiology, psychology

Your core coursework includes field- and lab-based research, as well as student-driven seminars that cover emerging themes in the literature.

Training spans both theoretical and empirical approaches, ultimate and proximate levels of explanation, and a wide taxonomic breadth of study species.

As an animal behavior student, you'll benefit from internal ASU research centers such as the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative, and numerous seminar series including the Social Insect Research Group and the Colloquium on Evolution of Social Complexity.

Finally, you'll have access to external research opportunities through ASU partnerships with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and the Santa Fe Institute.

Courses and electives

Elective Courses
  • ASM 401 Health and Human Biology (4)
  • ASM 443/543 Primatology (3)
  • ASM 525 Primate Paleobiology (3)
  • BIO 411 Quantitative Methods in Conservation Biology and Ecology (3)
  • BIO 415 Statistical Models for Biology (4)
  • BIO 421/521 Landscape Ecology (3)
  • BIO 423 Population and Community Ecology (3)
  • BIO 436 Sociobiology and Behavioral Ecology (3)
  • BIO 461 Comparative Animal Physiology (3)
  • BIO 462 Endocrine Physiology (3)
  • BIO 465 Neurophysiology (3)
  • BIO 467 Neurobiology (3)
  • BIO 503 Bioimaging Lab (2)
  • BIO 504 Bioimaging (2)
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology (3)
  • BIO 524 Ecosystems
  • BIO 526 Quantitative Ecology
  • BIO 561 Environmental Physiology (3)
  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology (4)
  • CHM 460 Biological Chemistry (3)
  • KIN 412/512 Biomechanics of the Skeletal System (3)
  • KIN 414 Electromyographic Kinesiology (3)
  • KIN 440 Exercise Biochemistry (3)
  • KIN 443/533 Exercise Endocrinology (3)
  • KIN 522 Exercise Psychology (3)
  • MAT 420 Scientific Computing
  • MAT 450 Mathematical Models in Biology (3)
  • MAT 451 Mathematical Modeling (3)
  • MAT 591 Topic: Math Biology (3)
  • PLB 419/519 Physiological Plant Ecology (3)
  • PSY 420 Analysis of Behavior (3)
  • PSY 424 Genetic Psychology (3)
  • PSY 426 Neuroanatomy (4)
  • PSY 434 Cognitive Psychology (3)
  • PSY 512 Advanced Learning (3)
  • PSY 515 Quantitative Research Methodology and Statistics 1 (3)
  • PSY 526 Neuroanatomy (4)
  • PSY 528 Sensation and Perception (3)
  • PSY 530 Intermediate Statistics (3)
  • PSY 531 Multiple Regression in Psychological Research (3)
  • PSY 532 Analysis of Multivariate Data (3)
  • STP 530 Applied Regression (3)
  • STP 531 Applied Analysis of Variance (3)
  • STP 532 Applied Nonparametric Statistics (3)
  • STP 533 Applied Multivariate Analysis
  • STP 535 Applied Sampling Methodology

At a Glance: program details

Degree Requirements

Required Core (8 credit hours)
ANB 601 Research Strategies in Animal Behavior (4)
ANB 602 Current Issues in Animal Behavior (1)

Electives or Research (64 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
Core course ANB 602 is a one credit hour course, taken four times.

The department and the student's advisor determine a plan for elective and research courses in conjunction with the student.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or they must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants must submit the following:

  1. graduate admissions application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

Career Opportunities

A doctorate in animal behavior provides strong preparation for academic careers at every level, including community colleges and research universities. The skills and knowledge obtained in this program are also valuable for government careers in federal and state agencies responsible for wildlife management and conservation and for conservation-related careers in nongovernmental organizations.

Career examples include:

  • animal scientist
  • biology professor
  • conservation biologist
  • postsecondary biology teacher
  • wildlife biologist

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Program Contact Information

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