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PHIL 4600 3.0 – Animal Communication

PHIL 4600 3.0 – Animal Communication

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PHIL 4600 3.0 – Animal Communication

Animals communicate through many different modalities: chickens give alarm calls, elephants feel vibrations in the ground, bats echolocate, dogs smell urine, bonobos gesture, and dolphins pec touch. But what does it mean to communicate, and what it is like to communicate when you have a very different set of sensory systems and live in a very different social and physical environment from ours? That is, what is it like to be a communicating dolphin? 

In this course students will stay at a dolphin research center in Roatán, Honduras, collecting behavior and spatial use data as part of a long-term dolphin communication study. Students will examine philosophical and scientific approaches to studying animal communication and will also learn data collection techniques and philosophical theories.

Theoretical focus is on theories of the nature of communication, the differences between human language and communication, theories of the evolution of communication. Methodological focus is on approaches to conducting comparative field research and data collection techniques.

Students will enjoy a full day of scheduled activities, starting with breakfast and early morning data collection, late morning lectures, lunch, afternoon data collection and activities, late afternoon lectures, dinner and evening lectures or activities. Activities include a snorkel boat trip, night snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. Evening lectures on fish identification, sea turtle conservation, night-time adaptations of the reef, dolphin training, and more will be given by staff from the Roatán Institute for Marine Sciences. 

There will be one course meeting at York University prior to travelling to Honduras, and one course meeting upon return. 

Cross-listed as GS/PHIL 5600. Graduate students in Philosophy are welcome to apply.

Course Details


Roatán, Honduras

Course Director

Prof. Kristin Andrews, York Research Chair in Animal Minds; Department of Philosophy and Program in Cognitive Science (

Course Dates

May 10 and June 9, 2023, at York; May 14 – 28, 2023, in Roatán.


Permission of the instructor, minimum 75 credits of coursework. PHIL 3260 3.0 Philosophy of Psychology recommended.

Maximum Enrolment

12 students


Students should be able to swim and snorkel.

Program Fee

The program fee for this course is $4000 CAD, based on 12 students (subject to change based on final number of students).

Included in Program Fee

  • 14 nights’ accommodation (double occupancy) at Anthony’s Key Resort
  • Classroom space, onsite instruction, and research programming in association with DCP’s long-term study of the Roatán Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) dolphins
  • Transfers between Roatan (RTB) Airport and resort on arrival and departure days
  • Snorkel boat excursions, light rental for night snorkel
  • 2 dolphin encounters and 2 dolphin swims per student participant
  • 3 meals/day
  • Gratuities for resort staff as applicable
  • Professor-related costs and incidentals

Not Included in Program Fee

  • Return flights Toronto-Roatán (approx. $1000 CAD)
  • Tuition payable to York University
  • Guard.Me Travel Insurance
  • Spending money
  • Cost of Visa if one is required for your country of citizenship

Learn More

For more information, students can connect with LA&PS Study Abroad Coordinator (