Monday, August 15, 2022

A Taxonomy of College Team Names

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Miscellaneous

Ed Hessler

Tanya L. Rogers is a research ecologist at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center (Fisheries Ecology Division" who also occasionally (very, it appears) posts on her blog on her home page, "Outside the Quadrat."

In December 2020, she posted on a taxonomic analysis of US college team names. The names could be categorized under mammals, birds, people, other, mythic creatures, plants, with three animal entries, each unique: amphibian, reptile and invertebrate. The other category includes a diverse group, e.g. color, verb, weather, folklore, transportation, founder's name, etc. For information about taxonomy see here.

Rogers noted that "I've been often struck by the unoriginality of most sports team names, and as an ecologist, by the seeming over-representation of teams named after predatory birds and mammals." For no other reason than interest, "I decided one day (this in 2016) I would conduct a full classification and analysis of sports team names." She chose college names because professional sports teams provided too small a sample.

She found that "trophically, 57% of those animals were carnivores, 28% were omnivores, and 15% were herbivores." She also found "that states with teams named after Cardinals are states within the range of the Northern Cardinal. Likewise with Blue Jays. Roadrunners on the other hand...." Two team were "named after non-Arthropod invertebrates" and eleven after plants.

The post includes following the dramatic visualization at the top, further details, maps, lists, category issues and methodology.

Rogers notes that there other taxonomic possibilities. "There is certainly more to explore with regard to taxonomic diversity, for instance, and I am sure a social scientist could find something interesting in here. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no teams named after unicellular organisms or members of any but 2 invertebrate phyla, which I think is a lot of untapped potential." And adds two name preferences. "If there ever were a team named the Tardigrades or Sea Nettles, they would totally have my support."

The links at the top of the page provide information about Dr. Rogers, her research and see her art and illustration, and even learn what a quadrat is. Rogers with two others just published a paper which found "that chaos is far more prevalent in ecosystems than researchers thought." The paper is behind a paywall but you can read the abstract and learn author affiliations. The abstract includes a caution with respect to conserving and preserving species, "the use of steady-state approaches to conservation. and management."

The blog post was a great deal of fun to read as well as work to appreciate. 

Thanks, Dr. Rogers.

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