Here's an anecdote that, for Professor Neil Gemmell, puts his weird year as a monster-hunting scientist smartly into perspective.
On a pier in Santa Monica just west of Los Angeles, a researcher is about to board a boat.
A couple of curious passers-by ask about all of the containers that she has with her.
She explains she's going out to collect water samples, so she can use something called environmental DNA to reveal what species of turtle and other marine life are present in that part of the ocean.
"Then they say, oh, like the Loch Ness Monster ?" Gemmell says.
"Here we have a couple of people over in America who get told about environmental DNA by this scientist, and they immediately link that back to my project. It's surreal."
Indeed, the Otago University anatomy professor probably just pulled off the biggest feat of science communication ever seen in New Zealand.
All because of a rather large, undoubtedly mythical, aquatic creature of the Scottish Highlands.
NZ's biggest science story?
Gemmell is a hugely respected scientist in his field. But that's not to say his work hadn't made for fascinating, often quirky, media articles in the past.
There was a study he co-authored on the king salmon's bizarre ability to adjust its sperm's swimming speed, and another focused on a ghoulish parasite that reproduced by brainwashing its victim and forcing it to kill itself.
DNA findings suggest Loch Ness Monster may be real: NZ scientist
More recently, there was the bluehead wrasse, which gave Gemmell and colleagues a long-sought explanation for why some fish species can change their sex.
It's worth pointing out that the latter story, about a study that took about six years of hard research, got picked up by local media and some overseas publications like Vice and New Scientist.
Each of those were odd and wonderful in their own way.
And each were comprehensively eclipsed by the publicity behemoth that was essentially a side-project for Gemmell - a DNA sweep of a lake for one Loch Ness Monster .
"We'd like to think that we do some pretty cool work at Otago, like how we might use gene drives for the control of predators," he said.
"You mention the Loch Ness Monster ... and suddenly you've got an audience of millions."
When his university's press office sent out a media advisory this month - merely stating that Gemmell and colleagues would soon be revealing the results of their survey – that was enough to spark a fresh flurry of stories that reached an estimated 384 million people around the globe.
"I don't want to say everything else that we do is trivial, but this was the single biggest story the University of Otago has ever had. It's the biggest story, I think, New Zealand science has had for a long time. Perhaps ever," he said.
"I find that quite ironic because we've had scientists who discovered genes associated with stomach cancer.
"We've had people who made major discoveries to do with the origins of the universe and how black holes are formed. None of it has had the same penetration at a public level that this thing has."
What was the catalyst for it all?
It might have been Twitter.
'The coolest thing ever'
A couple of years ago, Darren Naish, the author of a book called Hunting Monsters, used the platform to quiz Gemmell on whether environmental DNA, or eDNA, might be the key to clearing up the Nessie mystery.
There have, after all, been 1000 registered sightings of the monster, some as recent as the past few months.
Environmental DNA, capable of uncovering a wealth of information with just a single water sample, seemed an obvious solution.
At the time, Gemmell's team had just completed a piece of work which demonstrated amazing accuracy at identifying the species that resided in the marine ecosystems they'd studied.
Based on that, he was already thinking about how eDNA might be used to search for and identify the creatures that live in areas of our planet which are hard to investigate using traditional approaches – deep oceans, subterranean water systems and the like.
Loch Ness seemed a perfect fit for that sort of project.
Some time later, Gemmell got an email from John Paul Breslin, a reporter with Scotland's Sunday Post, asking if they'd ended up progressing the idea.
While the answer was no, it was still enough to give Breslin an article that quickly spread across the Scottish press - and then around the planet.
The response stunned Gemmell.
"In fact, we would have got more publicity out of just saying we'd decided not to do anything at Loch Ness than all of the other work my team had done put together - it was crazy."
It was also an epiphany.
Here was the head of a very large and successful department at a well-respected university, with an international reputation for doing quality work in the areas of molecular ecology and evolution.
Choosing to pursue the project obviously posed a potential risk to his scientific reputation, with some colleagues suggesting the idea could be a career killer.
Yet he also understood that doing science was just one part of a scientist's work; sharing and communicating it was another.
And eDNA - despite its potential to burst open our understanding of the natural world - wasn't an easy thing to get people excited about, let alone reading about.
"I just felt like, that for 25 years of my academic career, I'd only just realised how I could be smart about," he said.
"I want to do high-quality science, and I want to pursue questions that I find interesting, but I also want to be telling people about the things I do, and why it's important.
"But unless you've got an angle, you haven't got a voice - and it so happened that I stumbled upon something that's given me the opportunity to have a conversation about the science I do."
What really pushed him toward it was the response he got from his young son's school friends, who had already seen the coverage on TV and the local press.
"We think this is the coolest thing ever," they told him.
'The monster was the bait'
A couple of months after that, Gemmell found himself on a boat in Loch Ness, collecting hundreds of samples from various parts of the lake, some from as deep as 200m.
Days were long, with the team frequently starting as early as 6am and finishing as late as midnight.
Sampling at depth, in particular, was physical and time-consuming work taking 20 minutes or so to collect each sample.
But such was the resolution of the technology they were drawing on that the sampling would likely flush out bacteria, protists, algae, invertebrates and the traces of the fish, birds and other vertebrate life known from the lake.
A monster as well?
"I have a preconception about what the answer is, but I'm happy to be wrong. Because there have been situations in the past 100 years where species thought to have been extinct have been found.
"And there have been situations where we've found a biological basis for creatures once described in the annals of mariners, like krakens from the deep, or giant squids. Did they attack boats? I suspect not.
"But there is an opportunity to go out there with an open mind, and say that there are things out there that are possibly yet to be described."
That was at least how he's approached the countless questions reporters have levelled at him.
"With all the interviews we did in Scotland, we explained what we were doing with all of the water sampling, and how we were carrying out a biodiversity survey, but of course, we played along with the idea that, if there's a monster, maybe we'll find some evidence of it in the DNA sequencing."
Of all those thousands and thousands of media stories, Gemmell estimates about 98 per cent were positive, and almost all inadvertently gave readers a quick tutorial in eDNA.
"I like to say that the monster was the bait – and the science was the hook," he said.
"A couple of times, there were negative stories ... you know, some idiot from New Zealand who thinks there's a monster, which is not what I ever said, but that was the lens that they chose."
One of the harshest takes came from the editor of his own university's student magazine Critic, who wrote: "Pushing a story about a hunt for a mythical creature doesn't make us seem like an august, respectable institution, it makes us look like crackpots."
Science writer Ellen Rykers penned a rebuttal in defence of Gemmell, pointing out that the objective was never to find Nessie, but to use her to "communicate some serious science in a captivating way".
Gemmell circles back to that point himself.
"I used to laugh at people like The Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin – you know, nature is wonderful as long as you can hold it, but through his actions, and the through the way he came communicate his science, he probably changed the lives of a generation.
"I mean, I always thought he was a bit dumb, but maybe I was the one who was dumb.
"Some people still look at me and say, Neil, this is just crazy. And there are plenty of people who are out to giggle about it and I'll laugh along. But actually, I'm achieving what I wanted to do, which is to get people talking about this technology."
Just like those people, on that pier in Santa Monica, on the other side of the planet.