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 email@example.com