Almost 4 years ago, David Paulides was searching for a special kind of person to head the Bigfoot DNA research team he was assembling. With over 100+ purported Bigfoot samples, this person had to be capable of leading several experts and and multiple laboratories.
Prior to enlisting Dr. Ketchum's services, Paulides had interviewed a number of scientists to lead his team, but nobody stood out to Paulides more than Dr. Ketchum. He decided to go with her because she had the interest, background and demeanor he was looking for to work with a variety of personalities and professions.
It remains to be seen how far along they are in their search to prove the existence of Bigfoot. What we do know is that Dr. Ketchum has been working nonstop and she seems committed to the study. According to people close to the project, the results have been nothing short of enlightening, encouraging and surprising at the same time. Paulides tells us that the information that's been leaked to the media is but a shot glass of sludge on a mountain of data. He claims there is only one DNA expert who has all the data sitting in front of them, and that is Dr. Ketchum.
The following questions and answers from Dr. Ketchum's Facebook page tells us a lot about her expertise in DNA. The woman truly knows what she's talking about:
Question: I'm still unclear on why cells don't degrade over time even if not exposed to bacteria. Isn't exposure to air itself (especially oxygen) corrosive, or is decomposition only driven by organic processes? Does the sample need to be completely sealed off from air, as at the middle of a tooth?
Answer: It is sealed off more or less in bone and better yet in teeth and that is better. Most of the degradation is due to bacteria and enzymes though. As long as DNA is dried, it is extremely durable. We actually have gotten DNA from cremated remains before. It is very difficult but can be done in some cases. So, if it can stand fire, it can stand air also. Of course the less air the better once it is dry as it can carry contaminants if the DNA is openly exposed.
Question: Why do many fossils only have mitochondrial DNA if they have any DNA available at all?
Answer: You have to use a number of very technical procedures to try to obtain nuclear DNA from fossils. Oftentimes it is too degraded to extract. In the case of Neanderthal and the Denisovan finger bone, these very ancient remains only had nuclear DNA because they were in a dry environment (cave) and the conditions were not conducive for degradation to occur. Even at that, it is quite the achievement to be able to sequence them at all. The reason it is easier to obtain the mitochondrial DNA (maternal lineage) is that 1. It is a small loop of DNA (about 16.5 kilobases) and 2. There are about a hundred copies of mitochondrial DNA in a cell so it is 100 times more prevalent than the nuclear DNA in the nucleus of the cell. So, it degrades less due to size and number.
Question: What about modern samples and DNA yield as far as degradation?
Answer: If the DNA has been left out in the environment, especially a wet environment, even the best samples can degrade. So, extracting DNA from any type of specimen can be tricky if it has been out in the weather, especially wet weather as it promotes bacterial and fungal growth and therefore degradation of the exposed sample. That is why we never suggest collecting DNA in plastic bags, they hold moisture. Allow the sample to dry and then put it in a new paper bag.