About Animal Behavior Studies

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

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

Biological Foundations of Behavior; Biology; 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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Lillian R Basom

Director of Operations, College Vivarium

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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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; Public Health; 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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Joseph Thompson

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

Biological Foundations of Behavior

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Richelle L Wagner

Assistant Director of Operations, College Vivarium

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

“It was clear to me that F&M was an environment that would support the interdisciplinary chaos that I wanted to cause.”

Josh Kulak '25 has always been drawn to the parallels between animal and human experience. That exact sentiment brought him to F&M. “It was clear to me that F&M was an environment that would support the interdisciplinary chaos that I wanted to cause,” said Kulak, an animal behavior major with a keen interest in human rights. “This semester, I literally walk from a 25-person class with one of the foremost scholars on animal welfare, to an eight-person class with the founder of the F&M Global LGBTQ Rights Barometer. You can't get that in other places.”

Read More »

Student Spotlight

“For every content animal, there is a team of keepers working around the clock to ensure the best care.”

Lauren Velazquez '26 spent a summer learning about animal behavior during an internship at the Bergen County Zoo in Paramus, N.J. Velazquez’s internship focused on animal welfare and enrichment, which Velazquez said encompassed a wide variety of daily tasks, “from participating in owl research to putting sunscreen on potbellied pigs.” Velazquez worked closely with F&M alumna Victoria O’Connor ’16, the zoo’s supervisor of enrichment, training and welfare. “There’s so much that goes into keeping the animals happy and healthy,” Velazquez said. “For every content animal, there is a team of keepers working around the clock to ensure the best care.”

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

April 2, 2024

‘Pursuing the Animal Husbandry and Primate Training Certificate Was a No-Brainer.’

Shoshana Frank has always known that she wanted to pursue a career in an animal-related field. To complement her animal behavior studies major and caretaker duties in F&M’s Vivarium, Frank decided to pursue F&M’s animal husbandry and primate training certificate. “The certificate program provides students with an experiential component that builds on the foundational knowledge we gain from our classes,” she said.

March 7, 2024

Mary Adams ’24 Embraces All F&M Has to Offer

Choosing F&M was about exploring the unknown for senior Mary Adams. Thanks to a generous financial aid package, she has completed academic studies, field research and internships both on campus and abroad.

October 10, 2023

Sophomore Explores Animal Behavior and Builds Alumni Connections at Bergen County Zoo

Sophomore Lauren Velazquez spent her summer learning about animal behavior and connecting with F&M alumni during an internship at the Bergen County Zoo in New Jersey.