All Over the Place: The Other Big Dance
Issue 22: March Mammal Madness
If you’ve been around me the last couple years in the month of March, there’s a good chance you’ve heard me talk about March Mammal Madness. If you’re familiar with American sports, you probably know about March Madness (aka “the big dance”), the annual single elimination college basketball tournament where fans fill out brackets to predict who will win. March Mammal Madness is similar, except that instead of the University of Kansas playing the University of North Carolina, it has a wolverine facing off against a giant water bug.
March Mammal Madness is a simulated animal tournament created as a science education tool. Just like in normal March Madness, March Mammal Madness invites people to fill out their brackets and follow the tournament results, but unlike the basketball tournament, March Mammal Madness watchers end up learning about animal habitats, behavior and physiology in the process while rooting for their picks. Last year, thousands of educators (including me) used it to educate more than half a million students about ecology in a very different way than it is usually taught.
It’s silly and fun, with well known animals mingling with obscure animals that even scientists don’t know much about. I first learned about it in an ecology class I took in 2018, but I’ve continued to participate on my own. Last year I used it as a teaching tool in my classes to introduce my students to English names of animals and get them talking about their opinions, which included sharing a truly bizarre Polish music video (with English subtitles you can turn on) about the orca whale, one of last year’s competitors.
This year I don’t expect to be introduced to any foreign comedy videos related to the tournament, but I am looking forward to seeing what happens.
There’s still time to fill out a bracket for this year’s competition. Head over to https://libguides.asu.edu/MarchMammalMadness to print out a bracket (and see a full explanation of how the tournament works). The wildcard match between a shrew mole and bumblebee bat will take place on the evening of March 13, but if you’re reading this after that, round one fully kicks off on the evening of Wednesday, March 15, so you can still fill out all of the other matchups before then.
And if you’d like to hear some light-hearted analysis of each week’s matchups, I’ve collaborated with my friend Nathan Cochran to produce a limited run podcast, “March Mammal Madness: Bracketology,” where we provide unofficial weekly sports-style recaps, analysis and previews of matches. Episode one is out now, and you can check it out here: https://rss.com/podcasts/m3bracket/