Friday 31 May 2019

Loch Ness eDNA results to be published in September

The iNews website has published an article today claiming that Professor Neil Gemmell's eDNA study of the loch has almost completed and the results will be revealed in July but possibly pushed out to September. One or two surprises are in the offing though one should not begin to superimpose one's own guesses and just wait and see what will come of this. However, the failure to sell this as a documentary may or may not eliminate "sensational" results. After all, what kind of DNA would elicit such a scenario?

It is a bit surprising no TV company picked up on this though, considering the lack of novel research they so often come up with - banal retellings of the Surgeon's Photograph, CGI shots of plesiosaurs and the same old faces going on about waves and birds. Perhaps the price of novelty was too high. I would also note that the comparison eDNA studies from other lochs may well be worth a watch. Was Loch Ness or even Loch Morar different to others?

UPDATE: It's always worth checking out the original source, especially when the Press get a bit over-excited. Neil Gemmell's own twitter account states it will be September rather than July for any announcements and this will take the form of a conference at Loch Ness. Likewise, he plays down (a bit) any idea he has discovered Nessie. Likewise, the delay in announcing turns out to be mainly due to classifying nearly 3000 micro organisms and bacteria (and this works still has not finished).

To quote two of his tweets:

Gosh this is quite the headline, but not quite what I said. Just to clarify, at this point, we can't rule out one of the common theories used to explain the monster myth. A full announcement of our findings will be made at Loch Ness, likely in early September. 

Some sensational headlines about our eDNA hunt at Loch Ness have come across my social media today. For the record, we are still investigating the data. Most popular hypotheses seem unsupported; one cannot yet be excluded. An alternative and more accurate headline.

Loch Ness monster study set to reveal ‘surprising’ findings

Researchers took samples of water from the loch with the hope of capturing Nessie's DNA

A scientific trawl of the waters of Loch Ness by researchers hoping to uncover the truth behind the myth of the famous monster has made a “surprising” finding. Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago in New Zealand, who led the study, told i that his team had managed to test most of the main theories about the Loch Ness monster.

While he declined to reveal exactly what they had found until the results had been fully analysed, he hinted that the Nessie myth was likely to endure. Professor Gemmell is preparing to announce the full results of his research almost a year after taking a series of water samples from the loch with the hope of catching the monster’s DNA. His team was using a new technique that can pick up traces left behind by passing animals in miniscule amounts of fur, skin, scales, faeces or urine.

Having been extracted in the lab, the DNA has been sequenced and compared against known species, creating near-definitive list of everything in the loch for the first time. The results of the study were supposed to be published in January, but cataloguing the extensive range of micro-organisms and bacteria has taken longer than expected. The team has found around 15 different species of fish and up to 3,000 species of bacteria, some of which will have been deposited in Loch Ness by animals using connecting rivers.

Professor Gemmell said he hoped to announce the full findings of the study at a press conference in Scotland in July, but the date may yet be pushed back until September. “Is there anything deeply mysterious? Hmm. It depends what you believe,” he said. “Is there anything startling? There are a few things that are a bit surprising. “What we’ll have achieved is what we set out to do, which is document the biodiversity of Loch Ness in June 2018 is some level of detail.

“We’ve tested each one of the main monster hypotheses, and three of them we can probably say aren’t right and one of them might be. “We’ll never disprove that there’s a monster, as we said at the beginning. If we find no evidence of the monster, that doesn’t prove anything. All we can do is describe what we’ve found.” Professor Gemmell also admitted that part of the reason for the delay in the publication of the results was due to a series of failed attempts to film a television documentary. He and his team had hoped to use any money generated from the project to fund further research, but negotiations with a series of production companies ended without a deal.

“There’s been an ongoing tension between wanting to tell people what we’ve found and wanting to maximise the vehicle through which we tell them,” he added. “To be fair, I think a TV documentary would’ve been a wonderful way to document the search and what we found, and put it into the context of other studies of Loch Ness. “It’s been something I’ve worked on pretty hard. I haven’t pushed things as hard as I could have with my collaborators because I was working on the production deals.”

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