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The genetic hunt for the Loch Ness monster © Getty Images

Neil Gemmell: The genetic hunt for the Loch Ness Monster

Published: 08th November, 2018 at 00:00
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Professor Neil Gemmell on his project to survey the genetic diversity of Loch Ness using cutting-edge environmental DNA techniques, and maybe find clues about the Loch Ness Monster.

For years rumours have abounded that a mysterious creature is lurking in the murky depths of Loch Ness. The only trouble is, save for a few blurry, unconvincing photographs and videos, no one has ever managed to find even the slightest scrap of evidence that it actually exists.

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Several previous scientific expeditions searching for the beastie using sonar beam and satellite technology have all drawn a blank but now a new search launched by geneticist Neil Gemmell promises to be our best hope of tracking down Nessie to date.

Gemmell and his team are analysing eDNA, or environmental DNA, the genetic material – skin, feathers, excrement - left behind by organism living in the water of the Loch, to search for clues of its inhabitants much like a forensic scientist does when looking for DNA evidence at a crime scene.

In this Science Focus Podcast, BBC Focus' commissioning editor Jason Goodyer speaks to him about how the project got started, how the technique works, and what he hopes to find.

You can find out more about eDNA and the hunt for Nessie in issue 329 of BBC Focus magazine.

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Authors

Jason Goodyer
Jason GoodyerCommissioning editor, BBC Science Focus

Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.

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