Does size matter? It does to 6’3″ scientist Craig McClain, of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in North Carolina. His research explores the science of body size in animals to understand the consequences of size differences in animal interactions, biodiversity, and the carbon cycle.
In his size studies, he often noticed mistakes in reported body size for marine creatures, especially his favorite, the giant squid. Despite reported lengths of 60 feet or more, he knew that reliable estimates put the large cephalopods nowhere near that size. A colleague who studies whale sharks noticed the same thing—enormous exaggerations of how large these stunning fish get.
So what do scientists do when they notice errors? They try to get to the bottom of them. “But we quickly realized that this was bigger than the both of us,” McClain says. “No pun intended.” So they reached out to experts in other fields, too. McClain also selected five undergraduates from one of his classes at Duke University. “I let them know it would be a colossal project. No pun intended.” The students picked a few animals to study in-depth, but there was more to the project, too.
McClain is also a science communicator, writer, and editor of Deep-Sea News. Engaging the public in science is hugely important to him. So his students’ other job was to blog and tweet about their research. On Twitter, people would tweet their height with the hashtag #sizeme, and the students would compare their size to a marine animal.
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