March mammal madness

first_imgChances are, you’ve never thought much about whether an orca or a pack of hyenas would win in a fight.Katie Hinde has.An assistant professor of human evolutionary biology, Hinde is also the creator of Mammal March Madness, an annual NCAA basketball-style tournament that pits mammalian species against each other in simulated combat. (Last year’s tournament ended with the orca-hyena faceoff, which the hyenas won in something of an upset.)This year’s bracket features divisions made up of Mighty Mini-Mammals, Mythical Mammals, Critically Endangered Mammals, and Sexy Beasts (species shaped by sexual selection). The competition will begin on March 9 with a bout between the pygmy jerboa and bumblebee bat, so participants are now researching each species before making their picks.The competition is fun and games, but there’s serious science behind it.“I put it online, thinking that maybe my mom would play, and it just exploded,” said Katie Hinde, an assistant professor at Harvard, who said she tries to include an unexpected twist each year to keep the competition interesting. Photo courtesy of Katie HindeHinde and her co-organizers — Kristi Lewton, assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine; Joshua Drew, lecturer at Columbia University; and Christopher Anderson, assistant professor at Dominican University — rigorously research each species, and the outcome of each match is based on a host of attributes, including temperament, size, weaponry, defensive mechanisms, and habitat.“These are the most rigorous fake animal battles you will ever encounter,” Hinde said. “Our preparations are basically biology boot camp. I read hundreds of research articles about the different animals: their natural history, their environment, their adaptations, and their interactions with other animals. And we calculate the probability of the outcome for each bout. I primarily study monkeys, so this is an amazing opportunity to think more broadly about the animal kingdom and share that awesomeness with others.”While that scientific rigor can make the contests more genuine, it also demands some creativity from organizers.In last year’s tournament, Hinde said, one bout saw a binturong, also known as a bearcat, come up against a dhole, a canid species native to Central and Southeast Asia. Despite having only a 5 percent chance of winning, the team’s randomization program showed the binturong coming out on top.“We had to find a justifiable reason, grounded in natural history research publications, to explain that outcome,” Hinde said. “I ended up reading about how long it takes different canid species to digest their food, and was able to show, since the dhole had won its battle the day before, it was so full it wasn’t motivated to fight the binturong.”In another case, Hinde said, only days before a battle involving a pangolin, research was published showing it to be the most trafficked animal species on the planet. In that case, the battle ended before it began, with the pangolin being captured by poachers and shipped to Asia.The idea for the competition grew out of Hinde’s love for the NCAA basketball tournament.“When I was an undergrad, we would skip two days of classes to watch the first round of the tournament,” she said. “My roommates and I would put our brackets on the wall, and we’d make fun of each other’s teams, and we had this camaraderie and fun around the whole thing.”The idea for an animal competition came two years ago, when Hinde stumbled onto a blog post that pitted species against each other to determine which was cutest.“I said there’s no way I want to do this, so I went to my office and pulled down my ‘Encyclopedia of Mammals’ and made up my own bracket,” she said. “I put it online, thinking that maybe my mom would play, and it just exploded. I had a research trip planned for the Kalahari, and when I got to the field site, the Internet would only work in the middle of the night, so I’d stay up until 2 a.m. live-tweeting the battles, and then follow meerkats during the day.”Hinde said she tries to include an unexpected twist each year to keep the competition interesting. This year, in addition to a bracket dedicated to smaller mammals, the competition will include mythical creatures, including the unicorn, Pegasus, the water horse, and the Yeti.“Part of this is to, hopefully, get more classicists to play the game,” Hinde said. “But this is also a chance to talk about different aspects of the human mind, and how we are adapted to think about mythical creatures. As I was researching this, I found that many cultures through human history have included wolf creatures or horse creatures, because the mythology is largely built around animals that are dangerous or important to them.”In the end, Hinde hopes that those who participate have fun and learn something about species that they may not have known even existed.“People get really excited to find out how we play things out,” she said. “It’s a very active ‘spectator sport.’ As things are happening, I can usually see people tweeting about how nervous or excited they are. It’s so much fun to see, and I look forward to all of it.”To download your Mammal March Madness bracket, visit Hinde’s blog. The results of each match will be revealed via Twitter (follow along at the hashtag #2015MMM) and will be recapped online.last_img read more

5 easy ways to show your staff they’re appreciated

first_img 50SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Wendy Moody Wendy Moody is a Senior Editor with Wendy works with the editorial team to help edit the content including current news, press releases, jobs and events. She keeps … Web: Details When you’re a leader and you’re caught up in your daily routine, it can be difficult to remember to express your gratitude to your staff. You may think to yourself how appreciative you are of them, but unless you actually show them, they may not know you are thankful. Here are five easy ideas for making sure your team knows you’re appreciative of their many efforts.Give them time offThis may seem like an obvious idea, but many companies don’t actually provide their employees with enough paid time off. You don’t have to go overboard, but allowing your staff periodic days off to regroup and relax will speak volumes. Aside from giving monetary bonuses (which is often not in the company’s budget) this is usually the next best thing. Approach an employee that has been working especially hard or has recently achieved a goal and have them pick a day they’d like to have off. They will see you’ve noticed their job performance and will be grateful that they’re being recognized.Surprise them with small rewardsWho doesn’t love a tasty treat? Small actions like bringing donuts in the morning, taking employees to lunch, or even just keeping a stocked break room will demonstrate that you are thinking of them. Good food makes people happy and it can also be a catalyst for employee camaraderie as the team enjoys a treat together.Ask for feedbackThere’s something important to be said for asking your staff for their input, not only on your performance but on the efficiency of the office as a whole. When you approach them for feedback, they will know you value their opinions and feelings. Giving them a sounding board will show them that you trust them and hold them in high regard.Plan fun team activitiesThere are so many benefits to team building exercises, whether your office is large or small. It’s promotes collaboration, allows employees to have fun together, and encourages open communication. Plan fun activities that your staff can do together outside the office. Volunteer for a local charity, attempt an escape room, take a city Segway tour, or go to a local sporting event.Be specific with praiseIt is extremely important to congratulate your team on their successes, but it is even better to point out specific achievements of certain employees. This can be done during a team meeting or communicated directly to the employee. Even if they are proud of themselves for accomplishing a goal, receiving high praise from their superior is truly invaluable.last_img read more