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Melba Ketchum’s Bigfoot DNA Study: The Questionable Ethics Of Creating A Journal

Posted February 18th, 2013 at 05:49 PM by ghostexorcist
Updated March 22nd, 2013 at 06:02 AM by ghostexorcist

Melba Ketchum’s Bigfoot DNA Study: The Questionable Ethics Of
Creating A Journal to Bypass Peer-Review

By Jim R. McClanahan

(Last update: 3-11-13)

On November 24, 2012, Dr. Melba Ketchum, a Texas veterinarian-turned-animal geneticist, released a statement to the press claiming that her 5 year DNA study had proven the existence of the legendary Bigfoot (a.k.a. Sasquatch). [1] According to the press release, “The genome sequencing shows that Sasquatch mtDNA is identical to modern Homo sapiens, but Sasquatch nuDNA is a novel, unknown hominin related to Homo sapiens and other primate species.” [2] Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is housed in the energy-producing Mitochondrian organelles of a cell’s cytoplasm, and it is only passed matrilineally from mother to daughter. [3] Nuclear DNA is housed in the nucleus of a cell, and it is passed on by both the mother and the father. [4] Therefore, Ketchum believes the “North American Sasquatch is a hybrid species, the result of males of an unknown hominin species crossing with female Homo sapiens” some 15,000 years ago. [5]

I first read about this on an NBC News Science Blog article entitled “Meet your Uncle Bigfoot: DNA report claims beast part human.” My blog entry “Bigfoot is my cousin, not my uncle” discussed negative comments left in the comments section of the article decrying the author Benjamin Radford’s skeptical treatment of the subject. Since then, I’ve been updating my blog with information about the questionable origins of the hair and skin samples used in the study, reports of possible rejections of the paper from science journals, and possible ulterior motives for self-promoting the study, such as Ketchum needing money to pay off debts due to her failing genetics business. Apart from doing a coast-to-coast AM radio interview in late December, Ketchum remained quiet about the details of the peer-review process. She was so silent that I figured her mouth had written a check her study couldn’t cash. Then, a few days ago on February 12, 2013, Ketchum posted “BUCKLE UP!!!!” on her Facebook page.[6] I predicted on my aforementioned blog post that three things would probably happen: 1) nothing; 2) she would publish her study in a third rate popular science magazine with very loose submission standards and no connection to any respected scientific organization; or 3) she would publish it online, most likely on a blog. I chose number 3 for being the most likely since there were no previous reports of her paper passing peer-review. It turns out I was right.

Reports from various sources started pouring in on the evening of February 12 that her paper would be published in the Denovo Scientific Journal. [7] You may ask how my prediction was right if it is a science journal. Well, it's not. I did a quick Google search and couldn't find a single website mentioning it. That's extremely strange since the names of respected journals are usually on the first page of results. I couldn’t even find it in my university’s expansive journal database. It seemed like the journal had just popped into existence recently. Then, later on the 12th, Nadia Moore, a biotech researcher with an interest in Bigfoot, used a domain tracker to discover the following information: [8]

Quote:
Registered through: GoDaddy.com, LLC (GoDaddy.com)
Domain Name: DENOVOJOURNAL.COM
Created on: 04-Feb-13
Expires on: 04-Feb-14
Last Updated on: 04-Feb-13

[...]
This means the journal had only been created a little over a week prior to the announcement of Ketchum’s paper being published. This gave the impression that she had essentially created her own journal to self-publish her study. Many people were rightly outraged that she would do such a thing. However, on the morning of the 13th, Ketchum released a long statement on her Facebook page claiming that she had “encountered the worst scientific bias in the peer review process.” [9] She terms the situation the “Galileo effect,” basically likening herself to way the famous physicist and astronomer of that name was chastised by the scientific establishment for proposing a theory that contradicted the commonly held belief of the time (Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle Blog humorously points out this appeal to Galileo “rates a hefty 40 points on the physicists’ crackpot index.”) [10] Most importantly, Ketchum claims her paper actually passed the review of a journal she later purchased and renamed:

Quote:
”We did finally pass peer review with a relatively new journal. It took a fresh outlook on the part of the editors and their careful selection of reviewers with knowledge of next generation whole genome sequencing in order to pass. I have no idea who the reviewers were though I have the reviews. That was kept confidential as is the way journals handle peer reviews. That was only part of the delay and problems associated with publication though. After this journal agreed to publish the manuscript, their legal counsel advised them not to publish a manuscript on such a controversial subject as it would destroy the editors’ reputations (as it has already done to mine). I have documentation on all of this drama. So, rather than spend another five years just trying to find a journal to publish and hoping that decent, open minded reviewers would be chosen, we acquired the rights to this journal and renamed it so we would not lose the passing peer reviews that are expected by the public and the scientific community. Denovo, the new journal is aimed at offering not only more choices and better service to scientists wanting to submit a manuscript, but also reviewers and editors that will be fair, unlike the treatment we have received. We furthermore have adhered to all of the standards set here in the link below, especially since the entire review and agreement to publish was done at the previous journal:

http://publicationethics.org/case/ed...r-own-journal” [11]
Ketchum cites the above webpage as a precedent for why it was ethical for her to publish in her own journal. It's basically a dialogue between a person in the same situation and a representative of the Committee on Publication Ethics. The person claims the focus of the unnamed journal is so specialized that there is only a small handful of people that can peer-review the article. The rep tells them the only ethical way to go about doing that would be to divorce themself from the process. It is recommended that an associate editor send the article out for peer-review and a commentary describing the transparency of the process should be published along with the article if it passes muster. So, the initial situation may mirror that of Ketchum, but the person is clear in the beginning that their journal is well established with a history of publication and a listing in the MEDLINE archive. The journal she bought just popped into existence and has zero publications. The person has problems with peer-review because the subject is so specialized. However, Ketchum's paper deals with animal and human DNA. I'm sure there are numerous qualified veterinarians, biologists, or geneticists who could have peer-reviewed the material, so she can't pull the "obscurity card." She has also failed to provide information detailing who she handed the peer-review process off to, and there doesn't seem to be any transparency commentary to go along with her paper. Thus, the webpage doesn’t even come close to supporting her case, and to my mind, it actually makes her look worse.

Many people have continued to report on blogs and news articles that she published in her own journal because her study failed peer-review. This has apparently gotten on the nerves of one of Ketchum’s supporters, Chuck Prahl, the operator of the Bigfoot Buzz Blog. In this blog entry, Prahl is adamant that her study passed the review of a preexisting journal that was later advised by their lawyer not to publish it (as mentioned above). He provides proof that Ketchum actually acquired the rights of the journal via a screenshot from Zoobank, an open access website for registering current and newly discovered species. The image shows the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology was registered by Ketchum on January 9, 2013, several weeks before it was supposedly renamed to Denovo Scientific Journal. This seems like a pretty open and shut case, but there are several problems.

First, Ketchum registered the name of her article and her chosen scientific trinomial name for Bigfoot, Homo sapiens cognatus, on November 18, 2012, [12] well before she supposedly sent her paper off for peer-review. Second, anyone can apparently just make up the name of a journal when they decide to register a new article (screenshot). To show how easy it is to create an account and register any articles, I’ve taken the liberty of registering an article entitled “The Nocturnal Activities of Drunken Badgers (Taxidea ebrius).” It appears in the prestigious Journal of Imaginary Zoological Studies. The species name Taxidea ebrius literally means "Drunken Badger," and you will be happy to know their range is "mostly wherever there is alcohol." I don't normally do stuff like this—my apologies to Zoobank—but I wanted to make a point. Someone who is willing to register a new species even before their paper has passed peer-review would probably not have any problem with creating the name of a journal out of thin air. The Zoobank entries for both of my mock journal and species have since then been taken down, so here are some screenshots:


Third, the Zoobank page for Ketchum's paper says it was published on Scholastica. This is another open source website where you can create your own journal, describe its purpose, list your editorial board, etc. You also list contact information if people are interested in sending you stuff. Again, to show how easy it is to do this, I took the liberty of creating an actual journal page for the Journal of Imaginary Zoological Studies. The webpage is private (https), but here is a screen shot:


Fourth, people who create Scholastica journals can post calls for publications on WikiCFP. You can set deadlines for paper registration, submission, notification, and the final version. The WikiCFP page for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology has no dates accept for the final version, January 11, 2013. In fact, the submission deadline is "TBD" (to be determined). That seems fishy because people can't submit papers if they don't have due dates to go off of. The Scholastica journal is associated with an email account for a person named Casey Mullins. However, as I pointed out above, Ketchum registered the journal on Zoobank two days prior on January 9, 2013. Most importantly, I tried to reach Casey via their listed email (mullins_casey@ymail.com), but the email was returned with the following message: “This user doesn't have a ymail account." (screenshot) This leaves two possibilities, neither of which make Ketchum look good: 1) She happened upon a randomly created journal on the internet (that anyone can make) with zero publication history, submitted her paper to some random person with unknown credentials for review, and later purchased the freely created journal from the previous owner, or 2) she registered the journal on Zoobank (as the evidence shows), created the physical journal herself on Scholastica with fake information, and then later claimed she "purchased" it.

So here is a possible timeline:
  • She registers on Zoobank on October 25, 2012. [13]
  • She registers the name of her article and the Bigfoot species name on Zoobank on November 18, 2012.
  • She announces her findings to the media on November 24, 2012.
  • She registers the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on Zoobank on January 9, 2013.
  • She creates an online page for the journal on Scholastica on January 11, 2013.
  • She registers a webpage for her Denovo Scientific Journal on godaddy.com on February 4, 2013.
  • She publishes her paper on Denovo Scientific Journal and claims she "purchased" the original journal and renamed it on February 13, 2013.
If this is true, Ketchum clearly intended to cover her tracks by creating the first journal so she could say she later purchased it and renamed it. I would be willing to retract any of the statements I made above if she is willing to provide the documents that she claims to have proving the purchase of the journal actually took place.

The paper has been widely panned by scientists. For the best analysis, see John Timmer's article "Bigfoot genome paper “conclusively proves” that Sasquatch is real" over at Ars Technica.
________________________________________

Update 2-20-13:

Scholastica journals are private (https), so I was originally unable to see the first entry for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology. However, I used Google cache to find a snapshot of it. The date for the first entry is January 4, 2013, which sets the date back a week. I still stand by what I wrote about Ketchum creating the journal with fake information (unless she can prove Casey Mullins is a real person and was the original owner). So the amended possible timeline is:
  • She registers on Zoobank on October 25, 2012.
  • She registers the name of her article and the Bigfoot species name on Zoobank on November 18, 2012.
  • She announces her findings to the media on November 24, 2012.
  • She creates an online page for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on Scholastica on January 4, 2013.
  • She registers the journal on Zoobank on January 9, 2013.
  • She registers a webpage for her Denovo Scientific Journal on godaddy.com on February 4, 2013.
  • She publishes her paper on Denovo Scientific Journal and claims she "purchased" the original journal and renamed it on February 13, 2013.
Here is a screenshot since I think the page has been taken down. Hmm...how convenient.

Click the image to open in full size.

________________________________________

Update 2-20-13 #2:

Smokey at the Over The Line, Smokey! Blog has been closely following the developments of this fiasco much longer than I have. His frequently updated article "Texas DNA specialist writes that Sasquatch is a modern human being. UPDATED 2/20/2013. That was 2010; now she says it’s a hybrid" is a must read for a deeper understanding of the situation. He recently contacted me because he was interested in expanding the timeline that I had created with another piece of evidence. Smokey has independently come to the same conclusions about Casey Mullins, their nonexistent email, and their call for papers on WikiCFP. It turns out there was one piece of the puzzle that I had missed. A person with the user name "Mullins casey" (Casey Mullins) submitted a request to Wikipedia to create an article for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on January 5, 2013, the day after the journal was first established on Scholastica. [15] Here is a screenshot just in case the cache page goes down:


This may not seem like a big thing, but it helps establish a recognizable pattern, one involving "jumping the gun." It first starts on November 18, 2012 when Ketchum registers the name of her paper and the trinomial species name for Bigfoot on Zoobank even before her manuscript had been submitted for peer-review. Then, the day after the Journal is created on Scholastica, Casey Mullins tries to create a Wikipedia article for it on January 5, 2013. Finally, Ketchum registers the journal on Zoobank on January 9. If her story is to be believed, she contacted Mullins, sent him her paper, it went through several rounds of peer-review, he agreed to publish it but reneged at the last moment, and Ketchum decided to purchase the journal so she could publish her paper. All of this supposedly happened in 5 days. That’s pretty fast don’t you think? The peer-review process of the Plos ONE science journal, for instance, takes on average about a month given that there aren’t any problems. [16] That means either the newly established journal had a much larger pool of scholars to review papers in a much, much, much shorter time than well-established journals, or the story isn’t true. Again, the only other alternative is that Ketchum created her own journal to bypass peer-review. So here is the amended possible timeline:
  • She registers on Zoobank on October 25, 2012.
  • She registers the name of her article and the Bigfoot species name on Zoobank on November 18, 2012.
  • She announces her findings to the media on November 24, 2012.
  • She creates an online page for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on Scholastica on January 4, 2013.
  • She tries to create a Wikipedia article on the journal on January 5, 2013.
  • She registers the journal on Zoobank on January 9, 2013.
  • She registers a webpage for her Denovo Scientific Journal on godaddy.com on February 4, 2013.
  • She publishes her paper on Denovo Scientific Journal and claims she "purchased" the original journal and renamed it on February 13, 2013.
________________________________________

Update 2-23-13
:

Smokey at the Over the line, Smokey! Blog has continued to search the web for any information on Casey Mullins. He hasn’t been able to find anyone in the genetics field with that name who would have been qualified to review a paper of this nature. It's impossible to say without further evidence that Casey Mullins doesn't exist, but the fake email and Ketchum’s lack of disclosure regarding the peer-review process is very suggestive. Her saying the paper was peer-reviewed is not the same as demonstrating it was. After all, she did say “I have documentation on all of this drama.” [17] Why not share it?

A few blogs have picked up my article since I first published it. For instance, Robert Lindsay mentioned it in his blog entry “Bigfoot News February 21, 2013.” Although he realizes there is no proof of her paper actually going through peer-review, he “support[s] Ketchum’s unethical behavior to the fullest.” He explains this is because:

Quote:
She needed to get her paper out there, one way or the other, by hook or by crook, and she did it. If she had to bypass peer review in order to do that, so be it. It’s being reviewed by her peers right now in the media anyway. It’s obvious that mainstream science simply refused to look at her data in a fair way. There was no way on Earth they were going to publish an article on Bigfoot DNA, no matter what it said or who wrote it. If that’s the way they were going to be about it, then peer review needed to be bypassed. [18]
We don’t know that the scientific community refused to review her paper because, again, she hasn’t provided any evidence. All we have to go on is her word. The fact that so many scientists are now jumping at the chance to look over her research is an additional piece of evidence that suggests she may not have submitted it in the first place.

This disdain for the scientific establishment is, I feel, indicative of the views of the more fundamentalist Bigfooters. The reason I say this is because they remind me of creationists so much. The following scenario will illustrate what I mean. Say there is a scientist claiming to have found irrefutable proof of the existence of the Christian god. He self-publishes in his own journal because mainstream publications reject his paper due to some perceived scientific bias. What do you think creationists would do in this situation? They would rally en masse behind this scientist, promote a conspiracy theory that mainstream scientists are trying to cover up the truth, and even applaud him for sidestepping the obviously biased peer-review process. The fact that he sells his paper online for $30 is rationalized as being acceptable because of the time and money the scientist put into his research. But what if the scenario was reversed? Say there is a scientist claiming to have found irrefutable evidence that the Christian god does not exist. She self-publishes in her own journal because the topic is too controversial for mainstream publications. What do you think creationists would do in this situation? They would damn the paper because it was self-published in the author's own journal, basically invoking the importance of peer-review. They would also dismiss the findings as the work of an atheist. The fact that she sells her paper for $30 online is rationalized as being just pure greed. Now, replace “God” with “Bigfoot," "creationist" with "Bigfooter," and “atheist” with “skeptic” in these scenarios and you can see where I’m coming from. These fundamentalist Bigfooters will support anything that supports their beliefs and reject anything that doesn’t. Thus, Melba Ketchum has become the new Michael Behe.

Lastly, four things have recently come to my attention. First, Ketchum claims her study took five years. This means she probably started it around 2007 since it was first widely promoted late last year. The first year of a five year study is obviously not going to be the time that someone comes to any major conclusions, but, according to the US Copyright Office, Ketchum began a book intended to be made into a film called Sasquatch: The Tribe Revealed on April 7, 2008. She copyrighted the name of this project on September 16, 2010. [19] The projected publication date was February 15, 2012, but the book obviously hasn’t come out yet. This fits in with what I discussed in an earlier update about a recognizable pattern of “jumping the gun.” Second, according to Tyler Huggins, Ketchum's study had used bits of an unidentified hide provided to her by Justin Smeja, a hunter claiming to have shot a Bigfoot. Huggins sent samples of the same material to the genetics lab of Trent University in Canada for independent analysis. The results returned both bear and human DNA, meaning the sample was actually misidentified bear hide that had been contaminated by Smeja when he collected it incorrectly (screenshot). Third, Huggins posted material about his findings on a Bigfoot Forums thread entitled "Release Of Forensic Dna Results For Sierra Kills Sample" on December 26, 2012 at 11:07 am. [20] Then, roughly three and half hours later, someone posted the following statement from Ketchum’s now defunct personal Facebook page: “In regards to information concerning Justin Smeja's samples. [sic] We are not concerned and have no comment. We are confident in the samples we used. We have nothing to say on others samples, we have not worked with.” [21] It's important to note that this happened a little over a week before the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology popped into existence. Forth, it was reported that Ketchum supposedly asked Smeja in January of this year to tamper with the hide when he would not agree to hand all of the material over to her. [22]

This new information allows for a broader picture of the situation to appear. It’s possible that Ketchum began this whole thing to profit from a book / documentary deal. Something (money/research issues?) caused the planned publication date of February 15, 2012 to be pushed back. She shortly thereafter started building a fan base on her "public figure" facebook page that she created February 18, 2012. [23] She announced the results of her study on November 24, 2012, but Huggins’ post on December 26 would have greatly undermined the central thesis of her paper (as well as any future book deal). This may have caused her to create the back story about purchasing a preexisting journal in a desperate attempt to validate her study in the public eye. Claiming that it passed peer-review would naturally cast doubt on Huggins' claims. Her request for Smeja to tamper with his hide shortly thereafter may have been apart of this same plan. It would have certainly made it impossible for other researchers to test whether or not the sample was contaminated bear hide, thus giving her a monopoly on the evidence.

Here is the fullest possible timeline to date:
  • She begins the project sometime in 2007.
  • She begins work on a book/documentary called Sasquatch: The Tribe Revealed on April 7, 2008.
  • She copyrights the book/documentary on September 16, 2010.
  • She copyrights two working titles of her paper on July 19 and September 12 of 2011. [24]
  • She creates a "public figure" page on Facebook on February 18, 2012.
  • She registers on Zoobank on October 25, 2012.
  • She registers the name of her article and the Bigfoot species name on Zoobank on November 18, 2012.
  • She announces her findings to the media on November 24, 2012.
  • Tyler Huggins posts material that threatens the validity of her study on December 26, 2012.
  • She posts a statement about Huggins' research a few hours later on her old personal Facebook page the same day.
  • She creates an online page for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on Scholastica on January 4, 2013.
  • She tries to create a Wikipedia article on the journal on January 5, 2013.
  • She registers the journal on Zoobank on January 9, 2013.
  • She registers a webpage for her Denovo Scientific Journal on godaddy.com on February 4, 2013.
  • She publishes her paper on Denovo Scientific Journal and claims she "purchased" the original journal and renamed it on February 13, 2013.
________________________________________

Update 3-1-13
:

I have written a new article describing how a picture of a supposed bigfoot appearing in Ketchum's paper was revealed to be a Chewbacca mask.

Also, Doubtful News recently revealed that at least one of the papers cited in the study was actually an April Fools joke written for biologists. In addition, they reported that an independent analysis of Ketchum's samples turned up dog, cat, and bear DNA, thus pointing to widespread contamination.
________________________________________

Update 3-4-13:

The definitive statement on the Justin Smeja saga has been published on the Sierra Kills Project blog run by Tyler Huggins, the science-minded Bigfoot enthusiast whose independent investigation discovered Ketchum had used contaminated samples in her DNA study. Smokey at the Over the line, Smokey! blog has continued to follow this story while I was busy with other projects. His research team discovered that components of the chemical cocktail that Ketchum unsuccessfully tried to get Smeja to administer to his hide is capable of breaking down the multiple sources of DNA and hybridizing them. In addition, Smokey was contacted by a loyal reader with access to Ketchum’s DNA sequencing data. The lemur result (described here) was “just the software grappling with the mixed up sequence.” [25] Basically, the software analyzing the data just spit out a result that best matched the contaminated sample with more than one source of DNA. But it is clear the sequence found both bear and human DNA. Finally, given that the study has been discredited by mainstream science, Smokey comments: “This is no longer a question on which actual, competent ethical scientists should waste their valuable time. In the opinion of OTL,S!, this is now more like a criminal investigation.” [26] I totally agree since the evidence suggests Ketchjm has not been truthful about the origins of the JAMEZ journal, the peer-review of her study, her request for Smeja to tamper with the hide, and the results of her study. The fact that she is profiting from the sale of her paper makes the situation worse.

The investigative journalist Linda Moulton Howe recently (2-26-13) appeared on the Sasquatch Watch Canada podcast to play recordings of the interview that she did with Ketchum on February 14, 2013, the day after she self-published her DNA study in her Denovo Scientific Journal. Ketchum claims the reason she started the study was because she was approached by a TV show to analyze some samples for them:

Quote:
“The first thing that happened was this TV show Destination Truth came to us with some samples they had gotten that were potentially Yeti. At the same time, we got some samples from North American Bigfoot—that’s an organization out of California—and they had eyewitnesses attached to these samples they sent. And we got something kind of akin to what we got with the Yeti sample. This was very curious to me, so I moved forward and we decided actually to try to do something with this.”
I thought Destination Truth might have approached her in 2007 when she supposedly first began the project. But it turns out she first appeared on the show on November 4, 2009 (season 3, episode 9), thus discrediting her claim that the study took five years. Ketchum appears in the last few minutes of the episode to describe the results of the Yeti hair sequencing:

Quote:
I didn’t think we would have anything to talk about here to be honest. I was just going to rule out Yeti and be done with it. I submitted the sequence that we obtained from this hair sample to a large international database that scientists use to deposit their sequence data [Genbank]. Well, at first, I was very skeptical because we’ve had these things come into our lab in the past and they’ve never panned out to be anything interesting. However, this did test very clearly on the human panel of markers. That makes it a primate, and that makes it a large primate.
After being asked by the host if the results could have been caused by human contamination or if the hair could be human, Ketchum replies: “The hair, visually, is not human. It’s coarser than horse tail hair … Initial searches indicate that it’s an unknown sequence. There are literally millions of sequences in this database and we’re really shocked to find that it didn’t match any of the species exactly on the database.” What is most striking here is that the subject of contamination is completely disregarded. Also, her describing the hair as being “coarser than horse tail hair” is very interesting because the top left side of the monitor supposed to be showing the results of the hair sample sequence has the file name “HORSE SNP NEW 3.ppt.”


SNP, or “Single Nucleotide Polymorphism,” is a difference in a single base in the DNA of individual members of a species. Ketchum’s DNA Diagnostic business uses this genetic marker in tests “to identify, parent verify, sex, diagnose genetic disease and define desirable traits like color” in dogs, cats, and horses. [27] It’s possible the production team just asked Ketchum to pull up a random SNP test so they could have something “sciency” to show the viewers. However, it’s also possible that the sample they gave her was actually horse hair.

Click the image to open in full size.

The hair sample.

It was found in a tree, so it could have easily fallen out of the nest of a bird. Several species of bird are known to use horse hair to construct and or line their nests. For instance, the Chipping Sparrow was once known as the “hairbird” because its primarily nest building material was horse hair. [28] The primate DNA could have simply been the result of contamination by the people who collected it or the owner of the horse. Having said that, it’s possible Ketchum knew it was horse hair all along given the aforementioned lemur results from above clearly showed bear and human DNA.

If this is true, why would Ketchum give the show false results? Well, for one, they used her as a consultant on a second episode that aired on March 31, 2010 (season 3, episode 12). This second appearance on TV may have caused her to initiate her study because it was around this time that the Better Business Bureau (BBB) started receiving a slew of complaints about her DNA Diagnostic business not rendering services paid for. The complaints continued through the rest of the year. This suggests that her attention may have been focused elsewhere. On August 28, she appeared on a coast-to-coast AM radio show promoting her study and asking for Bigfoot samples to be sent to her. A few weeks later, she copyrighted the name of her unfinished book/documentary Sasquatch: The Tribe Revealed on September 19. As described in an earlier update, the copyright page says she started this in April of 2008, but this could just be a made up date. This suggests that she had already come to her final conclusions by the end of 2010. The last two years have probably just been spent writing and hyping the paper.

Here is the fullest possible timeline to date:
  • She appears on the TV show Destination Truth on November 4, 2009.
  • She appears on the show for a second time on March 31, 2010.
  • She does the first of many radio interviews promoting her study on August 28, 2010.
  • She copyrights the book/documentary Sasquatch: The Tribe Revealed on September 16, 2010.
  • She copyrights two working titles of her paper on July 19 and September 12 of 2011. [24]
  • She creates a "public figure" page on Facebook on February 18, 2012.
  • She registers on Zoobank on October 25, 2012.
  • She registers the name of her article and the Bigfoot species name on Zoobank on November 18, 2012.
  • She announces her findings to the media on November 24, 2012.
  • Tyler Huggins posts material that threatens the validity of her study on December 26, 2012.
  • She posts a statement about Huggins' research a few hours later on her old personal Facebook page the same day.
  • She creates an online page for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on Scholastica on January 4, 2013.
  • She tries to create a Wikipedia article on the journal on January 5, 2013.
  • She registers the journal on Zoobank on January 9, 2013.
  • She registers a webpage for her Denovo Scientific Journal on godaddy.com on February 4, 2013.
  • She publishes her paper on Denovo Scientific Journal and claims she "purchased" the original journal and renamed it on February 13, 2013.
Ketchum recently did a radio interview with the Voice of Russia in which she refers to herself as an innovative researcher who is years ahead of the scientific establishment:

Quote:
“Yes, the modern science is not yet ready for it. There is so much hype surrounding it that the scientific community feels that the research cannot be credible. For most of the scientific world, the results of our study cannot be valid because they know that yeti does not exist and thus the project is merely a hoax, an ad campaign. As a result, the scientists did not even want to look through it. Their unwillingness to even consider the possibility that a mythical creature might actually be real might leads them to invent the reasons why our research was invalid.

Another reason why most of the scientific world turned their backs on our research is that the existence of hybrid DNA is a very unpopular theory, even though it is a proven scientific fact that most Caucasian individuals have at least two to three percent Neanderthal genes as well as a lot of South-East Asian people have up to five percent of Denisova genes.

Those reviewers who finally agreed to read the paper then came back to me asking for the information that was already in the manuscript, so I knew they did not even read it. Moreover, when the reviewers failed to find any errors in our research they simply asserted that it was ‘contaminated’. Given that most of our project team consisted of forensic scientists we are sure that there is no contamination in our research. In this sense, it seems to me that contamination is the only excuse that the reviewers can come up with to prevent the publication of our study.

More generally, one might recall that nearly all major breakthroughs in science have been met with great skepticism or immediately rejected as invalid. This why I call the situation in which we know find ourselves a ‘Galilio Effect’. Every-so-often innovative research projects are not accepted by the scientific community up until the scientist passes away.” [29]
Ketchum's willingness to put herself in the spot light speaks to some deep seeded need to be famous. This is best illustrated by her comparing herself to Galileo, crying conspiracy, and mounting a popularity campaign on social networking sites like Facebook and in radio interviews instead of trying to convince mainstream science.
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Update 3-7-13:

The scholastica profile for the seemingly nonexistent Casey Mullins, the supposed editor of the journal Ketchum likely created but claims to have purchased, states that he is the editorial secretory of the Foundation for Advanced Zoological Exploration (FAZE). (screenshot) This is of course similar to the name of the fake Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology mentioned above. The foundation is probably also fake because it can’t be found on any college database. It had zero hits on Google for several weeks until yesterday. Smokey at the Over the line, Smokey! blog recently reported finding newly created twitter and blogger accounts for Mullins featuring information about said foundation. The blogger page presents three mission statements:

Quote:
1) To encourage multidiciplinary research in Zoology including all areas of hominin behavior studies
2) To provide support of scientific writing, peer review, and publication of advance zoological studies in a peer reviewed scientific journal to be published by FAZE.
3) To support advanced research by field researchers outside of the walls of academia
Considering what I’ve written above about peer-review and fake journals, I feel confident in translating what the statements actually say:
  1. To encourage multidiciplinary research in Zoology including all areas of Bigfoot behavior studies.
  2. To provide support of pseudoscientific writing, non-peer review, and publication of advance zoological studies in a non-peer reviewed pseudoscientific journal to be published by FAZE.
  3. To support advanced research by amateur field researchers with zero scientific training who are active outside of the walls of academia.
No manner of flowery language can hide the obvious intent of this supposed foundation. Smokey’s take on it is spot on: “Is this to be the shell for the…next fake peer review in the next fake journal, which will be “bought”, renamed on…another cheesy website, to serve as the “scientific journal” for another…pseudoscientific white elephant of a paper, about the favorite color of an imaginary animal?” This “shell” is likely meant to support Ketchum’s story. It’s also interesting to point out that the foundation is a “Registered Entity in The Bahamas under the International Business Companies (IBC) Act of 1990.” Does this smell a little fishy to anyone? This shell could literally be a shell corporation. I'm sure Ketchum is raking in the cash from sales of her paper. I wonder what kind of taxes she will have to pay? Speaking of taxes...
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Update 3-10-13:

As I mentioned in my last update, twitter and blogger accounts for the seemingly nonexistent Casey Mullins have recently popped into existence. For someone who is supposedly not a sockpuppet of Melba Ketchum, Mullins sure has a hard time of showing his individuality in his twitter tweets. You’ve got a link to her Sasquatch Genome website, antagonistic statements towards her competitor Dr. Jeff Meldrum, a link to a website run by someone claiming to have discovered some of the samples used in her study, a link to her Denovo journal, a link to a blog discussion where Mullins talks about her, and statements about publishing material on “hominin [i.e., Bigfoot] behavior and culture.” What’s funny about the blog discussion is that he gets called out for having a connection to Ketchum. User JustAskin asks: “‘Casey Mullins’ that name rings a bell. You didnt [sic] happen to sell a journal to a certain texas vet?” I find it hard to believe that the former editor and owner of a journal that published a controversial paper would act like the sale never happened, yet routinely promote Ketchum like a true fanboy.

I suggested in my 3-4-13 update that Ketchum came to her final conclusions as far back as late 2010. I have found additional evidence to support this. First—this one is actually old news—Justin Smeja submitted the bear hide to her for analysis in late November of 2010. [31] Second, her Sasquatch Genome website was first created on February 27, 2011:

Quote:
Domain ID:D161628849-LROR
Domain Name:SASQUATCHGENOMEPROJECT.ORG
Created On:27-Feb-2011 19:58:43 UTC
Last Updated On:04-Mar-2013 23:02:40 UTC
This is yet another example of Ketchum “jumping the gun” before her research had a chance to be peer-reviewed. Here is the fullest possible timeline to date:
  • She appears on the TV show Destination Truth on November 4, 2009.
  • She appears on the show for a second time on March 31, 2010.
  • She does the first of many radio interviews promoting her study on August 28, 2010.
  • She copyrights the book/documentary Sasquatch: The Tribe Revealed on September 16, 2010.
  • Justin Smeja submits samples of the bear hide to her in late November of 2010.
  • She creates her Sasquatch Genome website on February 27, 2011.
  • She copyrights two working titles of her paper on July 19 and September 12 of 2011. [24]
  • She creates a "public figure" page on Facebook on February 18, 2012.
  • She registers on Zoobank on October 25, 2012.
  • She registers the name of her article and the Bigfoot species name on Zoobank on November 18, 2012.
  • She announces her findings to the media on November 24, 2012.
  • Tyler Huggins posts material that threatens the validity of her study on December 26, 2012.
  • She posts a statement about Huggins' research a few hours later on her old personal Facebook page the same day.
  • She creates an online page for the Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology on Scholastica on January 4, 2013.
  • She tries to create a Wikipedia article on the journal on January 5, 2013.
  • She registers the journal on Zoobank on January 9, 2013.
  • She registers a webpage for her Denovo Scientific Journal on godaddy.com on February 4, 2013.
  • She publishes her paper on Denovo Scientific Journal and claims she "purchased" the original journal and renamed it on February 13, 2013.
________________________________________

Update 3-11-13:

It turns out Ketchum has a profile page on Scholastica, the website that originally hosted the fake Journal of Advanced Multidisciplinary Exploration in Zoology (JAMEZ). There is no date on it, and the furthest the web cache for the page goes back is March 7, but it shows she had a journal on the site at one time. I would be willing to bet it predates Casey Mullins' profile and JAMEZ. It probably hasn't been updated in a while because it still has her DNA Diagnostic business listed. You'd think that she would have changed it to her genome project website if she still actively used her Scholastica account. I'm guessing she deleted the original journal so she could set up JAMEZ under the Casey Mullins pseudonym. The reason her profile still exists is because Scholastica "retain[s] residual information in [their] backup and/or archival copies of [their] database" for some time even after a person deletes their account. Here is a screenshot of her profile just in case they finally remove it from the archive:
________________________________________

SEE HERE FOR FUTURE UPDATES

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Notes and Bibliography
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Total Comments 14

Comments

  1. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    PLEASE READ: For those who happen upon my blog entry and wish to leave a comment, I will keep the option open unless the comments become belligerent.
    Posted February 18th, 2013 at 06:10 PM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  2. Old Comment
    okamido's Avatar
    First..excellent.


    Second...people are being belligerent on you blog pages?
    Posted February 18th, 2013 at 08:32 PM by okamido okamido is offline
  3. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by okamido View Comment
    First..excellent.


    Second...people are being belligerent on you blog pages?
    Thanks for the compliment. The above is just a general reminder to be civil. I've noticed that any skeptical article dealing with the study gets hit with lots of negative comments from Ketchum's supporters. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them were to create historum accounts just to do a drive by in the comments section.
    Posted February 18th, 2013 at 08:35 PM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Pedro's Avatar
    Wonderful. Fully enjoyed it.
    Posted February 18th, 2013 at 09:16 PM by Pedro Pedro is offline
  5. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Pedro View Comment
    Wonderful. Fully enjoyed it.
    Thanks. That means a lot coming from you. I think you do a wonderful job on the historum journals.
    Posted February 19th, 2013 at 04:51 AM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Clemmie's Avatar
    Enjoyed reading your blog.
    Posted February 19th, 2013 at 06:40 AM by Clemmie Clemmie is offline
  7. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Clemmie View Comment
    Enjoyed reading your blog.
    Thank you.
    Posted February 19th, 2013 at 07:09 AM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  8. Old Comment
    Posted February 19th, 2013 at 07:14 PM by CoastalMike CoastalMike is offline
  9. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by CoastalMike View Comment
    If you are the author, I applaud you for keeping tabs on the story and doing some awesome research. This article is the result of only occasional research in my spare between work and school assignments. I believe one of the sources I consulted used your blog as a source some time ago.
    Posted February 19th, 2013 at 08:18 PM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  10. Old Comment
    First - fantastic job, thank you.

    Second - the BF community needs this kind of rational critique by those interested in truth.
    Posted February 20th, 2013 at 02:53 PM by Mark51 Mark51 is offline
  11. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mark51 View Comment
    First - fantastic job, thank you.

    Second - the BF community needs this kind of rational critique by those interested in truth.
    Thanks for the compliment. I've updated the blog with some new information.
    Posted February 20th, 2013 at 07:29 PM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  12. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    I've just updated the blog with new information.
    Posted February 23rd, 2013 at 06:44 PM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
  13. Old Comment
    Wonderful documentation. I'm still at a loss for motive. Where did the samples for DNA extraction come from? Was there a provenance. Any chance of throwing out baby with bath water?
    Posted February 23rd, 2013 at 08:46 PM by Mike Kenney Mike Kenney is offline
  14. Old Comment
    ghostexorcist's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mike Kenney View Comment
    Wonderful documentation. I'm still at a loss for motive. Where did the samples for DNA extraction come from? Was there a provenance. Any chance of throwing out baby with bath water?
    The motive seems to be money. If she can get people to believe genetics evidence proves the existence of Bigfoot, she can finish her book/documentary and rake in the cash. The samples were collected by amateur Bigfoot enthusiasts and sent into her. She claims to have taken their DNA as a control to show that they did not contaminate the samples. But what are the chances of the average outdoorsy-type person having knowledge on proper evidence collecting procedures? Even if she could eliminate those people, it doesn't mean it couldn't have been contaminated by other people who frequent the area. Smeja has claimed that Ketchum didn't take his DNA, so that would cast doubt on the "purity" of the samples used. I can't speak to the accuracy of the sequencing described in the paper because I'm not a geneticist; but I know enough about human evolution and the spread of haplotypes across the globe to know that some of her findings don't make since. For instance, her hypothetical Sasquatch creature has European and Middle Eastern DNA. She suggests that these were among the types of people who made it to North America via the Bering land bridge 15,000 years ago. However, the earliest people in North America--the Native Americans--all have been traced genetically to northern east Asia. That either means that small pockets of proto-European and Middle Eastern people arbitrarily walked hundreds of thousands of miles all the way across the world just to end up in North America, or her samples were contaminated by the modern people who collected them. Which one sounds more plausible to you? I'm waiting for professional geneticists to deliver their verdict on the study.
    Posted February 24th, 2013 at 09:27 AM by ghostexorcist ghostexorcist is offline
 
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