Sunday, 10 September 2017

More on the eDNA testing Project




I had written previously on how Professor Neil Gemmill of the University of Otago in New Zealand planned to take water samples at Loch Ness in an attempt to discover what species of animal may be resident in the loch. That was back in April and things then went quiet.

The last update I read was from the Inverness Courier on August 17th which told us how Neil had visited Loch Ness to size up what was required and enlist local help. The proof of his visit was this selfie with the curator of the Loch Ness Centre, Adrian Shine. He had also paid a visit to sceptic, Darren Naish, since he had picked up on the idea of an eDNA hunt from Darren's book, "Hunting Monsters", published in 2016.




Actually, Darren's idea is not new as I had suggested it back in May 2014 in this article. Whether he got it from me, I cannot tell. Of course, such ideas are only going to carry more weight if they come from a sceptical scientist.

Adrian offered the centre's help with boats and people but then the bombshell was dropped. Neil reckons he needs £100,000 to fund the entire project. I'll say that again - one hundred thousand pounds. He plans to raise this money through crowdfunding and as of today, I cannot see any reference yet to this on his twitter account.

I had assumed some kindly scientific department had offered their facilities to process the water samples, but I guess not. There will obviously be costs, such as the transport of the large amount of water samples and running the DNA tests, but I was surprised by the £100K price tag.

Which makes me wonder if this project will ever get off the ground? On reading various comments on newspapers, you had people deriding this as a waste of money and it would be better spent on hospitals, nurses, etc. If that was true, you could probably close down most science research.

Interest has been expressed by film companies who wish to track his ventures for a documentary. They may put up some of the cash, grants may even be available if it could be argued that this experiment provides great publicity and awareness for the science of environmental DNA and ecology (a bit like using Nessie to promote food chain studies in schools). However, when the phrase "Loch Ness Monster" is mentioned in polite, scientific circles, they usually run a mile.

One thing I am quite certain of and that is the business people who are raking it in every year from tourists at Loch Ness will not be putting their hands in their pockets. As one Nessie man told me once of a local entrepreneur, he doubted he could even point you to the loch, as he was too busy with his nose in the till.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com








28 comments:

  1. I hope it does come off Roland, it sounds a very interesting project.

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  2. The samples would be very dilute. I wonder if they could be evaporated to get a higher concentration of DNA and so reduce transport costs. Maybe some unused whisky stills could be pressed into service.

    There have been quite a few tests of alleged Bigfoot DNA. I haven't seen a cost quoted, but in one case (link below) a newspaper reporter commissioned tests on 100 samples. I can't imagine he had a huge budget. Surely a preliminary trial could be done for much less than £100,000.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/03/bigfoot-dna-test-results_n_3541431.html

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    1. Yes, I would have one bucket done first before splashing the cash.

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  3. Wow, fine article again! Heh heh liked the bit about something carrying more weight when it comes from a sceptical scientist. I'd like to believe that's not true but sadly it probably is.

    Has the £100k been broken down into what it's all needed for? It does seem extraordinarily high. Considering how cheap it is these days to get DNA tests. Jeremy Kyle does them for free! I know this is more complex with very very small samples but I still don't understand the astronomical fee.

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    1. I don't watch Jeremy Kyle, but I assume it's all about DNA testing child-parent relationships. I would guess in the case of a couple of litres from a lake, it is more intensive as all the DNA from the sample are being sequenced and identified against known databases.

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    2. I don't watch Jeremy Kyle either, but his shows have sadly become part of British culture. I think everyone knows about the arguments, fights and parental DNA tests!

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  4. Roland did you say in a previous page that this experiment has been conducted on another lake in the lake district? Did it work ?

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    1. Yes, check my article linked at the beginning.

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  5. Seems an ambitious target to raise for an experiment that's unlikely to yield conclusive results one way or the other

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    1. Totally agree, from above story "environmental DNA" basically, it's looking for the greatly diluted DNA of Nessies poo.

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    2. And any shed skin cells would be in the water.

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    3. they'll find mrs Hasbro's dna,processed through nessie of course,rip.

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  6. Nothing in science is cheap, and this sounds interesting, although it certainly is looking for a needle in a haystack. I think a preliminary study would have helped. I'm not an expert in this in the slightest, but as far as I know, wet DNA degrades quickly, obviously this will be slowed by the cool loch temperature. I wonder how current the sample needs to be, to be of any use. It may not be distributed equally in the volume of loch water, given the temperature and the effect of gravity. If one was to start looking in such a volume of water as Loch Ness, one would be best spending time looking in the right place, if there is one.

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    1. Urqhart Bay and the river mouth would be my suggestions to start with. I'd probably count out Dores Bay, because Steve Feltham's lack of success over 25 years suggests that area is not a regular haunt for these animals.

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    2. That's a fair point. Funny, I wasn't actually thinking of sightings hotspots, but about where any DNA might settle within whatever window of opportunity might exist. Although it makes good sense to go where the sightings are.

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    3. I wonder if Steve Feltham ever reflects on the last 25 years and wishes he'd focused his efforts on another location. There's likely to be somewhere on the loch where he would have filmed a Loch Ness mystery animal. Though I am sure the number of places he could permanently park the Nessie-sary van were limited, probably even more so now. The location required a broad loch view and easy access by road for visitors to buy the fantastic models he makes.

      When I see Steve interviewed in recent years I see a contented man. But his main mission unfortunately has been unsuccessful. I know he's happy with how life turned out but I'd love to know how he feels about 25 years lochside without achieving the main goal. Does anyone know if he grants interviews to serious researchers? I'm sure people bother him all the time so he might decline the majority of requests.

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  7. There's been plenty of sightings out of Dores. One as recently as last month.

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    1. I don't understand how 25 years of a lochside vigil with cameras has resulted in nothing then. Do the plenty of sightings at Dores always happen when Steve Feltham isn't looking? If so that's extremely unlucky and you have to feel for Steve.

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    2. Interesting point. Holiday in his books suggested an average of 400 hours watching the loch per sighting. I presume that was based on his own expedition paramters.

      And by that I am pretty sure he does not mean sitting by the loch shore reading a book or cooking lunch with the occassional glance at the loch. I think he means literally eyes on loch for a cumulative and sustained 400 hours.

      I would note that Steve has had a sighting and had a few near misses and I would also add that sightings are well down on the heyday of Holiday and Dinsdale.


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    3. True enough. Even if there was a sighting for every 400 hours watching, the odds are it wouldn't be caught on film. Agree that these days the 400 hour stat probably doesn't apply anyway. In the context of Steve having seen one of the animals early on during his lochside vigil plus the near misses, I think it makes sense. Could've gone either way but unfortunately it didn't work out, not yet anyway. Fingers crossed for the next 20 years or however long Steve will be there.

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  8. I have visited Dores numerous times and suprisingly Steve isnt often about. I dont think he watches the loch as much as he used to watch it. RP, is there any more information on the latest sighting at Dores?

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    1. since nessie is very shy,steve has developed a theory that the reflection in a jar,outside the pub,pointed toward the water,is the best way to observe nessie.he busy testing this theory,rather extensivly.

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  9. 3 tourists saw what they thought was something large in the water around Torr point from The Dores Inn last month.

    Gary Campbell commented on it a few weeks ago and I believe has noted it in his register of sightings.

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  10. I'd like to comment on just how wonderful this website is. I imagine a whole new generation of internet users being once again interested in this mystery as they find this site. It's there for everyone to see and it appears high on the results when Loch Ness Monster is typed into Google. Perhaps the next Tim Dinsdale is a young person browsing the internet at home, interest piqued by this website. It's a wonderful thought. I feel sadness that the scientific approach to this mystery more or less stopped from the 1980s onwards and since then the subject has received an unfair barrage of scepticism without any real scientific analysis. Perhaps we're now seeing the tide turn back in the favour of the truth about Loch Ness? If so, we have a few wasted decades to make up for.

    A huge Thank You to the website owner!

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  11. I'm all for trying summit new!! Bring it on I say... maybe he could get help off guys with sonar! I look forward to it !

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    1. ROY, could you take a look at the article just before this one, I asked you about your experiences of terrapins in 'council ponds'. Would really appreciate your reply. Thank you.

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