Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The eDNA Hunt Publicity




In the ongoing discussion about the eDNA experiment, I stumbled across the official website for the team who will be conducting the experiment this year at this link. It gives more information on how the whole scheme will be executed, including the added experiment of obtaining "control" samples from Loch Morar and Loch Oich.

I assume they will also be obtaining control samples from lochs with no monster traditions. Actually, one person who has been obtaining samples from Loch Morar for eDNA purposes has been Professor Eric Verspoor of the Rivers and Lochs Institute of the UHI. he has not answered my queries, so it is uncertain if he is part of this experiment or not. He may have something to say on the matter of lochs and eDNA surveys.

I would also assume the funding, which was initially put at £100,000 is now in place, perhaps put up by a TV company such as the History Channel on the condition that they get exclusive rights to the results for a forthcoming documentary some time in 2019. However, the main thing I wish to note is the tenor of the website which is publicising this as the final enquiry into whether the Loch Ness Monster does or does not exist. To that end, we have such statements as "Finally, science can solve one of the world’s biggest mysteries" and "The world has waited more than a thousand years for an answer. It's only months away.". I would suggest that these are statements more inclined towards TV PR than empirical science.

We have had such statements before in the media, such as with Operation Deepscan in 1987 which seemed to leave things hanging on a thread with those three unexplained sonar contacts. They were dismissed as possible seals, even though no one saw any seals in the loch. Let us put it this way in saying that science is not always an exact science, especially when it comes to living things. The point being, what is the definitive test that would prove or disprove the Loch Ness Monster?

Firstly, one may initially suggest a sample of DNA that does not match anything on their DNA databases. That would seem to be the "gold standard" test but the problem is that it does not prove that this is the DNA of the monster, it could be the DNA of another species. We indeed would have an unclassified sequence of DNA, but the question of identity is not clear. Any attempt at such an answer will depend on the proximity of the unclassified DNA to other sequenced species.

Secondly, the eDNA may match so close to a known species that a false negative ensues. In other words, if the Loch Ness Monster was some kind of giant eel, its DNA profile may be so close to that of the known indigenous eels, that it may be construed as such.

Thirdly, eDNA profiling is not a technique with a 100% success rate. Not all species are captured in the survey. That can happen due to inadequate water sampling, the population of the missed species, the type of water body and the taxon of the species. The technique is improving, but I refer readers to this study.

Fourthly, there may be no DNA of the monster to capture and analyse because like salmon, trout and seal, it is itinerant and not always there. Sightings of the creature going up and down the River Ness certainly give weight to that theory. And, of course, if the late Ted Holiday was around, he would expect nothing to be found, because he thought Nessie had no DNA.

Anyway, I believe the team will begin work at the loch tomorrow and I wish them success and accuracy. It was four years ago that I suggested eDNA sampling as a tool to try out at the loch, let us now see how this pans out.

The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com

19 comments:

  1. Aye Morar and Oich would be weird control samples! Sometimes you wonder how much research people do before they come to Ness.

    This is a very interesting project none-the-less. What I fail to understand is if the monster is or was either a) a plesiosaur or b) an unknown creature then how can they test for something who's DNA is unknown? (As far as I'm aware we don't have plesiosaur DNA yet) And if you find a relative such as a turtle then that only really proves there might be a turtle in it, no?

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    1. The best scenario is they get something that doesn't quite match their genome database. Nobody knows what plesiosaur or basilosaurus or Stellar's sea cow dna looks like. This is where the guesswork may begin.

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  2. Is it really possible that £100,000 has been raised? Wowsers. There's life in this mystery yet. I can't wait to see the results. I share the concerns about whether DNA could be detected from a small number of animals in such a huge volume of water. My belief is that the animals live in the Loch permanently. I don't agree with the theory of travel to and from the sea.

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    1. I suspect History Channel contract. Yes, the detectability of any species DNA will be proportional to its population and how mobile they are.

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    2. I suspect you're right GB. Monster Quest and shows of their ilk searching for Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Mokele-mbembe never find anything conclusive. And as you well know, River Monsters with Jeremy Wade found nothing.

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  3. The sceptics are not saying much on this. It would be nice to hear their views and get their opinions on this test.I wonder what Steve Feltham and co think of it.

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    1. They will be predicting nothing detected and at best perhaps some sturgeon or cathfish DNA. It will be interesting to see if seal DNA is found.

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    2. Steve Feltham a skeptic? Since when? Oh wait, he now believes or guesses it's nothing but a humongous catfish. 26 years wasted “searching” for the LNM.

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    3. Mr Alvarado, is this true? The genial chap living lochside now believes Nessie to be a catfish? If so does he give his reasons? I watched the documentary about him driving to live at Loch Ness. I found him engaging on screen and felt the next stage of hunting was in good hands. I hope the nice chap still has the spark required to maintain the hunt.

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    4. Well, it is partly true, and I may have spoken in haste. And I agree with you, he is a very likable fellow.

      Not so much a full blown skeptic, as I still think he is a true believer. Only now he offers an alternate theory and his best guess for unexplained sightings. My quip about after 26 years and all he has to offer is a “Big Fish” story was a wee bit of sarcasm.

      Have a look at this. You can skip to 5:50 if you like.

      https://vimeo.com/155556145

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    5. Thank you very much for that, John (I hope you don't mind me calling you by your first name). Boy has Steve Feltham changed physically since the day he drove to the loch! Father Time stands still for none of us. However, he appears to retain an open mind judging by that clip. I do get the impression that he's rather more sceptical than the day he first parked his mobile library lochside, which is slightly saddening but Mr Feltham is free to be exactly what he wants to be, not what I want him to be!

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    6. Not at all and you're welcomed. Yes, he was a younger man when he arrived at the loch back in 92. Gosh 26 years! Where does the time go! He gave up the Rat Race and set out to do what he really wanted to do with his life. For that and his tenacity, he deserves admiration. And he has achieved some measure of recognition and fame. The legacy of the Loch Ness Monster, real or fabled, will now and forever include Mr. Steve Feltham.

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  4. If an unknown amphibian DNA strand is recovered can we "mix" it with salamander DNA and get Steve Plambeck's Giant Salamander? Shades of Jurassic Park, oh my! Just funning with you Steve. Whatever is in the loch is still up in the air as far as I'm concerned. ;)

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  5. Nice to see new footage emerging today, just in time for the DNA experiment.

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  6. I was just finishing up reading the sub-categories on the official website and they had this under “The Monster Hunters”

    THE HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITY
    In 2013 Charlie Sheen went on 2 nighttime hunts for the Monster. His equipment included a specially made hook, a leg of lamb as bait and lots of malt whiskey. Charlie returned empty handed.

    Charlie Sheen a monster hunter? In his wildest drunken dreams! The only thing Charlie did was return empty handed and drunk. Hahahaha!...Hey wait a minute, what am I laughing at, that sounds like something I would do! Dang...

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  7. Article on DNA study seems to consider LNM fans a cult...
    http://theconversation.com/why-wont-scientific-evidence-change-the-minds-of-loch-ness-monster-true-believers-97307

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    1. Worthy of a reply article in itself ...

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    2. I just read the article. Smug and patronising. The author seems to be oblivious to his own confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance.

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    3. Me a cultist? Preposterous, I am offended. Meh... The article is just a bunch of psychobabble by a pretentious “scholar” I'm skeptical on that learned persons assessment. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Not everything can be explained away by philosophy or psychology.

      One can dismiss the obviously ridiculous notions such as a Flat Earth, Moon Landing Hoax, or even some questionable religious beliefs ( By the way, I will not discuss or debate religion here.), but the LNM? No, I'm afraid not. I'll remain a true believer, thank you very much. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”

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