Grad Life

March is for Mammal Madness (and trash-talking and memes)

Estimated reading time: 4 mins  (647 words)

The first time I asked what ‘March Mammal Madness’ was, the answer I got was:

“You know, it’s like March Madness, but with mammals”

to which I eloquently replied:

“What’s a march madness?”


Fast forward to me currently being well-versed in the US sports, allow me to explain for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of a “March Madness” (mammalian or otherwise).

March Madness is the nickname for the university-level basketball tournament that is held annually during March (and a little bit of April; see Wikipedia or your local sports encyclopedia for details).

The hype around this is that people gamble by filling in these “brackets” that predict who will win during these face-offs and advance to the next round and ultimately become the champion.

real bracket
See for reference a “real” bracket for this years basketball

So what’s the deal with March Mammal Madness?

Well, imagine if instead of basketball teams you had mammals battling against each other like Pokémon!

Replace Blastoise & Charizard with actual mammals and you get the drift

I was introduced to March Mammal Madness (or MMM for the cool kids) when Prof. Katie Hinde came to give a colloquium talk about her awesome research on lactation (watch her explain her work in this Ted talk!)

Dr. Katie Hinde, aka El Jefe, aka the mastermind behind March Mammal Madness

Though she came to talk about milk, the first question she got after the talk came from the daughter of two of our professors and it was about an upset in the 2016 MMM tournament.

This girl came with all the facts about why her mammal should have been the one to win and she was essentially asking Prof. Hinde to explain herself.

I was impressed and intrigued.

Since that day, I’ve learnt that since MMM started in 2013 it’s grown into a huge event with dozens of people contributing to the artwork and the logistics of the tournament, and thousands of people (of all ages) making brackets and writing about the madness!

There’s a Wikipedia page and a French version of the bracket – this is FOR REAL, Y’ALL!

But Twitter is where the real action happens:

Between this year’s @2018MMMletsgo account and Prof. Katie Hinde’s own twitter, you can get all the news you need on MMM.

And as much as I love all the accidental learning I do through March Mammal Madness, I have to be honest, I’m in it for a few main reasons:

  1. distraction from not-fun work
  2. trash-talking people in my department
  3. the memes

(in that order)

People who do MMM are funny. Fact.


And let me tell you a little something about my department: we love MMM.

These are the people’s office doors and hallways right now:


And we have our own Penn State MMM hashtag (and mailing list) led by Kate Lesciotto:


But the center of the action at Penn State is (unfortunately) around my fellow grad student (and MMM archnemesis) Kevin Flaherty:

This year, things were looking up. Both Kate (who shares a lab with Kevin) and I were pummeling his bracket at the beginning. And we weren’t nice about it either…


But then, my foolish, foolish habit of always rooting for the primates *no matter what* finally caught up to me (and I’m not sure why Kate’s bracket went bust, but it did).

Kevin certainly did not hold back after that…


Tonight, as we prepare for the 2018 MMM Final (and the dying breath of my busted bracket), I want to take a moment to thank #teamMMM for all their hard work this year, and a moment of appreciation the tardigrade for being the (non-mammalian) breakout star from this bracket – may the tardigrade be with us for many memes to come:

(If I could communicate solely via this tardigrade image, I would)



1 thought on “March is for Mammal Madness (and trash-talking and memes)”

  1. I have occasionally been able to follow some of Katie Hinde’s MMM stuff on twitter, and it’s brilliant. Thanks for this background.

    And yes, tardigrades are so cool, they have to be ranked above mammals, even primates.

    Liked by 1 person

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