UMMS Affiliation

Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavior and Ethology | Communication | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Science and Mathematics Education


March Mammal Madness is a science outreach project that, over the course of several weeks in March, reaches hundreds of thousands of people in the United States every year. We combine four approaches to science outreach - gamification, social media platforms, community event(s), and creative products - to run a simulated tournament in which 64 animals compete to become the tournament champion. While the encounters between the animals are hypothetical, the outcomes rely on empirical evidence from the scientific literature. Players select their favored combatants beforehand, and during the tournament scientists translate the academic literature into gripping "play-by-play" narration on social media. To date ~1100 scholarly works, covering almost 400 taxa, have been transformed into science stories. March Mammal Madness is most typically used by high-school educators teaching life sciences, and we estimate that our materials reached ~1% of high-school students in the United States in 2019. Here we document the intentional design, public engagement, and magnitude of reach of the project. We further explain how human psychological and cognitive adaptations for shared experiences, social learning, narrative, and imagery contribute to the widespread use of March Mammal Madness.


animal behavior, animal ecology, ecology, education, genetics, genomics, human, informal learning, outreach, performance science, science communication

Rights and Permissions

Copyright Hinde et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

DOI of Published Version



Hinde K, Amorim CEG, Brokaw AF, Burt N, Casillas MC, Chen A, Chestnut T, Connors PK, Dasari M, Ditelberg CF, Dietrick J, Drew J, Durgavich L, Easterling B, Henning C, Hilborn A, Karlsson EK, Kissel M, Kobylecky J, Krell J, Lee DN, Lesciotto KM, Lewton KL, Light JE, Martin J, Murphy A, Nickley W, Núñez-de la Mora A, Pellicer O, Pellicer V, Perry AM, Schuttler SG, Stone AC, Tanis B, Weber J, Wilson M, Willcocks E, Anderson CN. March Mammal Madness and the power of narrative in science outreach. Elife. 2021 Feb 22;10:e65066. doi: 10.7554/eLife.65066. PMID: 33616530; PMCID: PMC7899649. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title



Full author list omitted for brevity. For the full list of authors, see article.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.