Biodiversity & Animal Behavior In The Chiricahua Mountains - Description

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Chiricahua Mountains

Course Description

The study of animal behavior is by nature interdisciplinary - crossing the boundaries between Biology, Psychology, Anthropology and Sociology. An understanding of the behavior of diverse species contributes both to our appreciation of human evolution, and to our ability to preserve biological diversity through conservation.

This 6-day Animal Behavior Field Course is Sponsored by The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (in Tucson, Arizona) and takes place at the Southwestern Research Station, located in The Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. 

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum 

Course For 2019
July 7 - 13
Cost: $1,150 (includes tuition and room and board at the Southwestern Research Station)

According to Conservation International, the sky islands of southern Arizona (which include the Chiricahua Mountains) contain some of the richest reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth (see chart blow). It is this outstanding biodiversity that attracts scientists (and their students) from all over the world. During this intensive field course, we will focus on the behavior of a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate species. 


Our studies will include:

1. The Adaptability Of Behavior - color and odor preferences in the selection of nectar sources by hummingbirds.

2. Population Dynamics - the size of territory in harvester ants as a function of colony density.

3. Communication - the evolution of visual displays in iguanid lizards.

4. Social Behavior - orientation and communication in slave-making ants.

5. Mating Behavior - The role of auditory signals in mating behavior of spadefoot toads.

6. Chemical orientation in three species of lizards: the role of Jacobson's organ.

7.Visual learning in feeding behavior of Mexican jays

8. Orientation behavior of ant lions

The course will include daily multimedia lectures. Although most of the course will be devoted to class and small-group projects, we also become familiar with research being conducted by scientists at the Research Station. In addition, we attend evening seminars given by Station scientists. Indeed, it is the presence of so many scientists (and their students) from around the world that makes this field course so unique!

Participants: The Animal Behavior Course is designed for: students; teachers; museum and zoo docents, environmental professionals, or anyone who enjoys observing and understanding the behavior of animals in their natural habitat. The course is  limited to 15 participants.


Dr. Howard Topoff, Professor Emeritus of Biopsychology at the City University of New York. Dr. Topoff has been conducting field research on insect social behavior at the Southwestern Research Station for over 40 years.

Please apply (via e-mail or snail mail) to:

Dr. Howard Topoff
P.O. Box 16366 - Portal, AZ 85632