Seminars

Seminar Offerings Link

Fall 2022 - Spring 2023 Seminars

Browse Seminars for 2022-2023!

Freshman Seminars are offered under the general supervision of the Standing Committee on Freshman Seminars. They are designed to intensify the intellectual experience of incoming undergraduates by allowing them to work closely with faculty members on topics of mutual interest.

Freshman seminars are graded SAT/UNS and may not be audited. Only students in their first-year in the College may take a seminar in either or both of the terms. Each seminar is worth 4 units of credit. Enrollment is limited to 12-15 students.

#Adulting

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Nancy E. Hill (Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Freshman Seminar 72U       4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Debates about when adolescence ends and adulthood begins often lead to judgements about how long youth today are taking...

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A Brief History of Surgery

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Frederick H. Millham  (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 24G       4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 15

The history of surgery begins with the Hippocratic physicians whose principles were based, at least partly, on observation and measurement.  However, surgical thinking for first three quarters of the “modern era” was dominated by Galen of Pergamum...

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Americans at Work in the Age of Robots and Artificial Intelligence

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Benjamin M. Friedman (Department of Economics)
Freshman Seminar 71G  4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Where will the coming generation of Americans (say, today's 18-year-olds) find jobs? And will the jobs be worth having? People have worried about losing their jobs to technology at least since the Luddites 200 years ago. In the aggregate, they have been wrong. The...

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Animation—Getting Your Hands on Time

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Ruth S. Lingford (Department of Art, Film and Visual Studies)
Freshman Seminar 33O    4 credits (fall term)    Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Students in this practice-based seminar will experiment with a variety of animation techniques to gain new perspectives on time. Using drawing, we will break down time into frames, understanding movement as both a liquid flow...

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Appraising and Reimagining Middle and High School Math Education

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Robin Gottlieb (Department of Mathematics)    
Freshman Seminar 40P    4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: This seminar has no prerequisites. An invitation is extended to all students whether or not they are thinking about studying mathematics.

What are the goals of mathematics education at the middle and high school level, and how do these goals impact our evaluation of the success or failure of math education in...

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Beautiful Physics

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Howard Georgi (Department of Physics)
Freshman Seminar 26E 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment: Limited to 12

There are a number of physical phenomena that are both subjectively beautiful and mathematically subtle. Participants will explore a few of these phenomena (including the Kelvin wake and the rainbow) to develop a precise mathematical description of the most important effects. They will consider whether it is possible to communicate the crux of the...

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Black Holes, String Theory and the Fundamental Laws of Nature

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Andrew E. Strominger (Department of Physics)
Freshman Seminar 21V     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

The quest to understand the fundamental laws of nature has been ongoing for centuries. This seminar will assess the current status of this quest. In the first five weeks we will cover the basic pillars of our understanding: Einstein’s theory of general relativity, quantum mechanics and the Standard Model of particle...

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Borges, García Márquez, Bolaño and Other Classics of Modern Latin American Fiction and Poetry

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Mariano Siskind (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 33C  4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: All readings and discussion will be in English.

This seminar introduces students to some of the most important Latin American literary works produced during the twentieth century. We will explore the ways in which these novels, short- stories and poems interrogate the historical traumas, political contexts and aesthetic potential...

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Buddhist Enlightenment: Visions, Words and Practice

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Ryuichi Abe (Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations)
Freshman Seminar 62Z     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: There will be two required visits to the Harvard Art Museums related to the final student project.

How do you get enlightened?  Is the Buddha a god or human? How many Buddhas are...

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California in the 60's

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Kate van Orden (Department of Music)
Freshman Seminar 30M    4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 13

This seminar examines American youth culture in the "long" 1960s through the lens of music in California. A range of popular and art music will be considered, from San Francisco psychedelia, L.A. rock-n-roll, surf rock, outlaw country, funk, and the ballads of singer-songwriters to the early minimalism of Steve...

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Cartoons, Folklore, and Mythology

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Joseph F.Nagy (Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 61F     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12 

The creators of cinematic (and later TV) animation have perennially turned to traditional oral and literary tales about fantastic heroes, villains, tricksters, and settings for their story material.  In the world of the animated “short” and feature-length film, myths, epics, legends, and folktales could come to life in a...

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Changing Our Mind: Evolving Thoughts on Brain Regeneration

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Paola Arlotta (Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology)
Freshman Seminar 26O   4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

We will discuss current theories on brain regeneration in a dynamic setting that combines brainstorming of the literature with virtual experiences in the laboratory. Students will learn experiments that have shaped the field of brain repair and consider the newest theories on ways to regenerate the nervous system. We will also...

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Comics and Graphic Novels

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Stephanie Burt (Department of English)
FRSEMR 60C    4 credits (fall term)   
Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Comics and graphic novels, or sequential art, are one of the world’s great storytelling media: we’re going to learn how to read them, how to talk about how they get made and how they work, how to understand—and how to enjoy— some of the kinds of comics and graphic novels (that...

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Complexity in Works of Art: Ulysses and Hamlet

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Philip J. Fisher (Department of English)
Freshman Seminar 33X 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Is the complexity, the imperfection, the difficulty of interpretation, the unresolved meaning found in certain great and lasting works of literary art a result of technical experimentation? Or is the source of this extreme complexity psychological, metaphysical, or spiritual?  Does it result...

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Death and Immortality

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Cheryl K. Chen (Department of Philosophy)
Freshman Seminar 30Q  4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment: Limited to 12

In this seminar, we will discuss philosophical questions about death and immortality. What is death? Is there a moral difference between "brain death" and the irreversible loss of consciousness? Is the classification of a person as dead a moral judgment, or is it an entirely scientific matter? Is death a misfortune to the person who dies? How can death be a misfortune...

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Dilemmas in the World’s Economy

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Elhanan Helpman (Department of Economics
Freshman Seminar 71R     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Standards of living vary greatly across countries, they rise fast in some and slowly in others. Economic growth has historically been related to the expansion of international commerce as well as industrialization and institutional reforms. How does a country’s well-being and growth depend on its trade partners? Is globalization in the...

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Everyday I’m Hustlin’: Pop Culture, Youth, and the African City

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Daniel E. Agbiboa  (Department of African and African American Studies)
Freshman Seminar 72I  4 credits (fall term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Cities today face broad challenges ranging from public health emergencies (e.g. Covid-19), to anti-police brutality protests (e.g. #ICan’tBreathe), and unemployment. Stuck in a frustrating period of “waithood” or waiting for adulthood, urban youths in Africa are increasingly...

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Finding Connections: Perspectives on Psychological Development and Mental Illness

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Nancy Rappaport (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 25N      
4 credits (fall term)       Enrollment:  Limited to 12

The seminar's challenge will be to deepen our understanding of human development and how individuals cope with serious emotional or social difficulties (neglect, bipolar disorder, autism, depression, schizophrenia)....

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Food, Up Close and Personal

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Noreen Tuross (Department of Human Evolutionary Biology)
Freshman Seminar 50P     4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

 

Several times a day, you decide what to eat and drink.  What happens to the food in your body? How is it turned into you and how has evolution shaped some of your choices?  We traverse popular nutrition literature, peer reviewed papers and discussion of data to unravel some of...

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GeoSciFi Movies: Real vs. Fiction

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Miaki Ishii (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences)
Freshman Seminar 23I 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment:  Limited to 14

Note: Students are required to watch the assigned movie prior to class.

Req Prep: Students must be comfortable with high-school level math and science.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions can have devastating effects on...

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Global Health: Comparative Analysis of Healthcare Delivery Systems

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Sanjay Saini (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 27I        4 credits (fall term)      Enrollment:  Limited to 15

This interactive seminar will allow students to obtain greater understanding of challenges faced by US healthcare system through critical comparative analysis of healthcare systems of selected countries from the developed, emerging and...

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Ignorant Schoolmasters and Experts

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

“Ignorant Schoolmasters” and Experts
Doris Sommer (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and Department of African and African American Studies)
Freshman Seminar 64Y           4 credits (fall term)       Enrollment:  Limited to 12

What is the best way to teach, by guiding students guide toward discovery or by explaining what teachers...

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Immigrant Memoirs: Women’s Lives from Eastern Europe to America

Semester: 

Fall

Offered: 

2022

Aleksandra Kremer (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 64T       4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 15

In this seminar we will read memoirs and personal essays (as well as a few poems and a play) written by women who had moved from eastern Europe to the United States (and in some cases to the UK and Canada, too). What did they think about...

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Broadway Musicals: History and Performance

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Carol Oja (Department of Music)
Freshman Seminar 34V  4 credits (spring term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: Student musicians and actors are welcome in the course, as are students who love to watch shows but not necessarily perform in them. Ability to read music is desirable but not required.

This seminar will explore a core group of Broadway musicals. Historical, musical, and...

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Caravaggio, Outrageous

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Peter J. Burgard (Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 64R  4 credits (spring term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, known simply as Caravaggio, is widely held to be one of the greatest painters of all time. He painted primarily religious subjects. And yet he was in his own time (turn of the 17th century) and remains one of the most controversial of all painters, many...

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Democracy and Education in America

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Robert B. Willison (Committee on Degrees in Social Studies)
Freshman Seminar 72D    4 credits (spring term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Cheerful illusions and wish fulfillment have dominated both popular and scholarly thought about democracy for two centuries. Democratic theory has sailed along as if no iceberg had struck and the engine room were not taking on water…Our view is that conventional thinking about democracy has collapsed in the face of modern social-scientific research.
(Achen and Bartels, Democracy...

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Generating Biodiversity: Hands-On Research Experience in Speciation Biology

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Robin Hopkins (Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Freshman Seminar 51R    4 credits (spring term)   Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: The goal of this seminar is to provide an authentic research experience to students fascinated by biological diversity. Most classes will be held at The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. Transportation will be provided at no cost to the student.

What is a species and how do they evolve? How do we, as scientists, study the process of speciation and the generation of...

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Genesis of Stars and Life in the Universe

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Abraham Loeb (Department of Astronomy)
Freshman Seminar 21G    4 credits (spring term)    Enrollment:  Limited to 15
(This seminar will have two separate sections.)

Since the Universe is expanding, it must have been denser in the past. But even before we get all the way back to the Big Bang, there must have been a time when stars like our Sun did not exist because the Universe was denser than they are. Since stars are needed to keep...

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Holding Politicians Accountable

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023
 Julie Anne Weaver (Department of Government and Committee on Degrees in Social Studies)
Freshman Seminar 71O  4 credits (spring term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Across the world, massive street protests and growing disdain for politics not only suggest high citizen dissatisfaction with politicians’ performance—from poor public services, high corruption, and increasing crime—but highlight the difficulty of holding politicians accountable to the voters who put them in office....

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Insights from Narratives of Illness

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Jerome E. Groopman (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 23K     4 credits (spring term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

A physician occupies a unique perch, regularly witnessing life’s great mysteries: the miracle of birth, the perplexing moment of death, and the struggle to find meaning in suffering. It is no wonder that narratives of illness have been of interest to both physician and non-...

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Is There Cancer on Mars?

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Giovanni Parmigiani (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
Freshman Seminar 52J     4 credits (spring term)       Enrollment:  Limited to 12

In 2021, a special committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) convened to “review and assess NASA's processes for long-term risk assessment and management for currently anticipated...

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Legacies of a Powerful Woman: The Life and Afterlife of Empress Theodora

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Alexander Riehle (Department of the Classics)
Freshman Seminar 64W         4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

One of the most controversial women of ancient and medieval history is Theodora, wife of Justinian I and empress of the Roman Empire in the 6th century CE. She has been variously portrayed as a hypersexual prostitute and power-hungry, vindictive manipulator, or as a saint,...

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Lyric Poetry: East and West, Then and Now

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Gordon Teskey (Department of English)
Freshman Seminar 64P     4 credits (spring term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

An introductory seminar on lyric poetry, with close reading of poems from four continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Poetry not in English will be translated but students with competence in foreign languages are welcome to work with the originals. 

We start...

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Narrative Negotiations: How do Readers and Writers Decide on What are the Most Important Voices and Values Represented in a Narrative?

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Homi K. Bhabha (Department of English and Department of Comparative Literature)
Freshman Seminar 63N    4 credits (fall term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Narrative Negotiations explores narrative “voice” in a wide range of literary and cultural texts. Narrative voice is a lively dialogue between the author and the reader as they engage in the experience of determining the value and veracity of the narrative: whose story is it anyway? The writer...

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Science and Technology Primer for Future Leaders

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Hongkun Park (Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Department of Physics)
Freshman Seminar 52E 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

We live in a world that is shaped by science and technology. As a modern citizen who will lead the U.S. and the world in the coming generation, we should be aware of the rapidly changing landscape of science and technology and be ready to participate in the decision-making processes for deploying these...

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The Amazing Brain

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

(CANCELLED)

John E. Dowling (Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology)
Freshman Seminar 22M  4 credits (spring term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 15

Prerequisite:  High school science.

Note: The class will run only 2 hours within the time block. Professor Dowling especially...

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The Creative Work of Translating

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Stephanie Sandler (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 36G   4 credits (spring term)   Enrollment:  Limited to 15

Prerequisite: The seminar will require some knowledge of one language besides English. Please feel free to contact Professor Sandler (ssandler@fas.harvard.edu) if you are unsure about this. If circumstances permit, there will be at least one required field trip to the Isabella...

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The Evolutionary Transition from Dinosaurs to Birds: Fossils, Genomes and Behavior

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Scott Edwards (Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Freshman Seminar 21R    (spring term)       Enrollment:  Limited to 12

The transition of dinosaurs to birds is quickly becoming one of the most complete records of evolutionary change in the vertebrate fossil record. Additionally, it is an excellent model of science building on incremental discoveries and undergoing paradigm shifts as new data are collected. In this seminar we will...

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The Grail Quest of Marcel Proust

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Virginie Greene (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures)
Freshman Seminar 60K 4 credits (fall term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

This seminar is an introduction to literature, the visual arts, the Harvard campus, and the Boston area.

We will read entirely Chrétien de Troyes’ Tale of the Grail (c. 1190), and excerpts of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (1913-1922). Students will be invited to reflect on young Perceval's adventures coming to Camelot,...

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The Heart of Medicine: Patients and Physicians and the Experience of Serious Illness in the Age of COVID-19

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Susan D. Block (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 71O 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Note: If circumstances permit, additional field learning opportunities (e.g., participation in hospital-based teaching rounds) will also be available outside of class.

Sickness and death are universal human experiences.  Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this reality home, in many difficult ways, to all of us over the past 2 years, thinking about our own losses and vulnerability and...

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The Life Project

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

Carrie Lambert-Beatty (Department of History of Art and Architecture and of Visual and Environmental Studies)
Freshman Seminar 30X  4 credits (spring term)  Enrollment:  Limited to 12
                                    

Note: This seminar is for anyone interested in...

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The Role of Government

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Oliver D. Hart (Department of Economics)
Freshman Seminar 42C  4 credits (spring term)   Enrollment:  Limited to 12

Economists have a very positive view of the role of markets. The intellectual foundations of this are the first and second theorems of welfare economics. The purpose of the seminar is to introduce the students to these results but also to their limitations....

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The Seven Sins of Memory

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Daniel L. Schacter (Department of Psychology)
Freshman Seminar 23S 4 credits (spring term)      Enrollment:  Limited to 12

How do we remember and why do we forget? Can we trust our memories? How is memory affected by misinformation such as “fake news”? Do smartphones and the Internet help our memories or hurt them? Are traumatic experiences especially well remembered or are they poorly remembered? What are the best ways to study for exams? This seminar will... Read more about The Seven Sins of Memory

Vegetal Humanities: Paying Attention to Plants in Contemporary Art and Culture

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2023

Carrie Lambert-Beatty (Department of History of Art and Architecture and Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies)
Freshman Seminar 63W 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

This class invites you to practice a new kind of plant-consciousness. Our guides will be contemporary artists and thinkers who are encouraging new relationships between human and vegetal life, or recalling very old ones. Suddenly, we have plant protagonists, gardens...

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Why We Animals Sing

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2022

Brian D. Farrell (Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology)
Freshman Seminar 22T    4 credits (spring term)    Enrollment:  Limited to 12

We do not sing alone. On land, four kinds of animals produce songs or calls: birds, frogs, mammals, and insects. Some of these (and fish) also do so underwater. The principal sounds such animal species make are signaling behaviors directly related to mating success. They are of individuals, usually males, marking...

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More Questions?


Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00AM-5:00PM
1414 Massachusetts Avenue, 3rd Floor,
located in the Bank of America building next to the Coop
(use HUID to access the elevator)
Email: seminars@fas.harvard.edu
Tel: 617-495-1523