The Point

The Point

The Point

Animals in the Arena

A Look into March Mammal Madness

For basketball fans, March Madness is the highlight of spring sports. 

For Marie Kuhn’s AP Environmental Class, March Mammal Madness is the highlight of the spring semester. 

For the past few years, Kuhn has spread awareness about endangered species through March Mammal Madness, a battle bracket for the animal kingdom. Students bet on whether the Red Hartebeest will defeat the Masrasector Nanarubi by comparing research on each animals’ statistics. 

Former teacher Jill Moeller informed Kuhn about the program, a new way to get students excited about animal science. 

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Since 2013, Arizona State University has pitted species against each other to encourage students to research animals. 

Combatants are arranged in a 4-division, single elimination tournament and seeded based on winning potential. MMM scientists research the combatants, their habitats, and all possible factors that could play a role in a real-world battle. They calculate the probability of each animal winning and use a random number generator to determine the outcome. 

“For me, it’s a friendly competition where the kids that really get into it can learn about these animals they might never have heard of. It’s a way to bring my classes together and have a lil’ common competition,” Kuhn said.

Friendly competition encourages students research these creatures, aligning with the animal units in AP Environmental Science and Biology. 

 “I think it helped me understand what animals need to do in their environment, how they live, and all the difficulties and strengths they have to have and how competitive it is,” 2023 MMM Champion Finlee Mills said.

Kuhn herself participates in this annual competition as well. 

“What I love is that I’m tracking who’s winning and I always pick who I think is going to win as well. I was really disappointed for team Walrus the other year because I usually tell everyone I’m going to win and then I never do. But yeah, it’s a lot of fun for me, too,” Kuhn said.

For bracket predictions, strategy is a big predictor of success. 

For Mills, the research process was easy. “I kind of just looked at the strengths and weaknesses of animals and I kind of went off of size a little bit,” she explained. 

Kuhn’s strategy is a bit more in depth. 

“I look at all the animals’ evolutionary characteristics to see what they would do well with in a battle. When I lose it’s usually because the animal might have adaptations that should help it survive, but then in the battle they run away so it didn’t help me at all.” 

Just like basketball March Madness, there can be upsets in March Mammal Madness – 2023 saw a minor upset between the Golden Eagle and the Wolverine, with the lower seeded Wolverine coming out on top and moving forward to win MMM.

About the Contributor
Sophie Sun, Reporter