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I teach a number of courses both at Kyoto University's main campus for undergrads and at its Primate Research Institute for graduate students. These courses range from the more basic sciences of animal behavior and comparative cognition to more applied fields like conservation biology and zoo biology. I also co-teach a workshop/seminar series on science communication with my colleagues in the Center for International Collaboration and Advanced Studies in Primatology (CICASP). But what ties all of these courses together is my desire to help students appreciate and understand our natural world, and ultimately provide them with the tools to communicate their new perspectives with a diverse audience effectively and efficiently.

Monkey grooms deer on Yakushima Island

Why do animals do as they do? Why do we humans do as we do? This course is aimed at answering these questions from the perspective of Darwinian evolution. Using 'Tinbergen's 4 questions', this course leads students to discover what lies at the root of the diversity of animal behavior that we observe today, how we study the mechanisms and functions of behavior, and why studying animals has a lot to teach us about the evolution of behavior in humans.

Orangutan hand touching a touchscreen while playing X's and O's. Image courtesy of Dr. Chris Martin, Indianapolis Zoo

In our quest to understand the origins of the human mind, we cannot forget that like all organisms on earth, we are but a small part of the great evolutionary tree of life. In this course, students learn about animal cognition through the lens of behavior, ecology and evolution. Students learn about how and why animals use cognition to help them navigate their physical and social worlds, and how and why they learn and remember things about their environments. The course has a strong emphasis on evolutionary theory, as well as the cognitive experiments that have allowed scientists to discover what we now know about the animal mind.

Adelie penguin in an Antarctic landscape by Andrew MacIntosh

With the onrushing of human development at the expense of the Earth's natural resources, we have now entered a new geological epoch: the ‘Anthropocene’. The human footprint on the Earth has never been greater and it is said that the world's biodiversity is now in the midst of the ‘sixth extinction’. This is where the relatively new science of conservation biology comes in. In this course, students learn about threats to biodiversity, loss of ecosystem services, extinction, and the importance of conserving nature, from individual species to entire ecosystems.

Andrew MacIntosh with students at Kyoto City Zoo during Zoo Biology course

Zoos and aquariums are a window into nature and the exotic lives of animals. Everyone has been to a zoo and wondered at the animals on display, but what are zoos really about? What goes on behind the scenes? What role does a modern zoo play in our society, and how has this changed throughout history? This course is designed to answer just these questions. Along the way, you’ll learn about the modern missions of zoos, animal behavior and welfare, public outreach and education, and especially the conservation of endangered species. See an exemplary course flyer here -->

CICASP Seminar in Science Communication
Students attending a CICASP Science Communication workshop

CICASP conducts a weekly seminar which aims to develop skills in scientific communication and critical thinking. The goal is to enhance students' abilities to communicate results and discuss scientific topics in English while at the same time tackling essential skills for scientists like building an academic profile and CV, tackling the publication process from start to finish, and designing an effective oral or poster presentation. The seminars are designed to be interactive, with a strong focus on active learning, with students having ample opportunity to practice and hone their craft.

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