Explorers and adventurers have been attempting to prove the existence of Bigfoot for decades, with each passing year bringing with it more advanced techniques that could settle the mystery once and for all. While Bigfoot enthusiasts might have previously had their reports dismissed by skeptics, the field has grown all the more respected, given how much more willing researchers are to refute theories and evidence, while new techniques also offer more authenticity to even the most unlikely of scenarios. Dr. Mireya Mayor, star of Expedition Bigfoot, is one of the most respected names in the field, which makes her findings in the upcoming series finale of the program all the more compelling.
World-renowned primatologist, Fulbright Scholar and National Science Foundation Fellow, Mayor is not your typical scientist. For nearly two decades, she has been a wildlife correspondent reporting on wildlife and habitat loss while advocating for solutions to the alarming trends. Mireya has been hailed as a "female Indiana Jones," in the media and is an inspiration to young women interested in science and exploration. A two-time Emmy Award-nominated field correspondent for the National Geographic Channel, Mayor reports to audiences worldwide on pertinent wildlife and habitat issues. Her explorations have led to several scientific discoveries, most notably her co-discovery of the world's smallest primates, a brand-new species to science. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Mireya grew up in Miami and earned her bachelor's degree in anthropology and English at the University of Miami and went on to earn her Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. She recently joined Florida International University as director of the Exploration and Science Communication Initiative. Mayor is also the author of Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey from NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer.
During filming for Expedition Bigfoot deep in the wilderness of Kentucky's Appalachian highlands, eDNA collected from soil under a massive tree structure found by Dr. Mayor and LeBlanc produced surprising and exciting results. Environmental DNA (eDNA) is the genetic material naturally left behind by animals in the environment. Scientific analysis of these samples helps generate a snapshot of any living creatures. This revolutionary new tool is increasingly used to confirm the presence of elusive animals.
Speaking by email, ComicBook.com caught up with Dr. Mayor to discuss the findings of the finale, what the future holds for research, and the likeliest places people could potentially find Bigfoot.
ComicBook.com: When was the first time you remember really believing that Bigfoot could exist? Either because you heard/saw compelling anecdotes or personally saw evidence that opened up that possibility?
Dr. Mireya Mayor: I approached this investigation as a scientist and an anthropologist, not a Bigfoot enthusiast. I don't accept things in the absence of evidence, but I strongly believe that if you want to be a part of a scientific discovery, you have to be willing to take risks. I like to take risks and exploration is foundational to science. I have always been interested in the exploratory part of science. I gravitate toward controversial questions because I find them more interesting. From the onset, my scientific career has been driven by the challenge of looking for obscure and unknown species. This ultimately led to my co-discovery of the world's smallest primate, as well as being the first scientist to photograph and study several primates that had never been photographed and rarely seen.
I have still to see definitive evidence that Bigfoot exists, but I can't dismiss the high strangeness that surrounds the mystery of Bigfoot reported by thousands, that I have now personally experienced and that science can't explain. It is our duty as scientists not to let our judgement and preconceived notions cloud our investigations. There is to date, no concrete evidence that Bigfoot exists. However, there are countless reports and unexplainable findings that cannot be, nor should be, ignored. Other legendary creatures, such as "hobbits," have left the pages of myth and fiction, because curious and tenacious scientists ultimately found evidence in the fossil record. Dozens of species are discovered on a yearly basis. Many more are yet to be discovered. I set out on this expedition like I do all my others, with curiosity, a sense of wonder, and no-preconceived expectations. Without curiosity and wonder, where would science be? I took a position at FIU as the Director of Exploration and Science Communications because I believe in engaging the general public in science.
Bigfoot or Bigfoot-like creatures have been sighted all across the country. Either based on the number of sightings or ecology, what part of the country do you think it's most likely in which Bigfoot could be living?
Based on all the stories, and what we know of other large mammals in America, there's no part of the U.S. that we would not expect to find Bigfoots if they actually exist. However, there are some places that would be less likely, such as any areas where there's intense agriculture or other kinds of human development. But wherever there's wilderness, I would expect to hear stories of Bigfoot. From Florida to Maine and California to Alaska. As much as I'd love to go, probably not Hawaii.
Other than this latest eDNA data, what would you say if the strongest piece of evidence supporting the existence of Bigfoot?
The latest eDNA finding was extremely surprising, and most certainly intriguing. But I wouldn't say it is evidence supporting the existence of Bigfoot. This surprising result is preliminary in that it requires further investigation of the site, additional analysis of the sample, and we need to collect more information. There are many findings (e.g., footprints, tree structures, nests) that may be possible pieces to the puzzle that is Bigfoot. None of them, thus far, are enough to be considered evidence because we don't know what made them. But together they are intriguing, and could ultimately lead us to the concrete evidence we are looking for.
While we could go centuries without getting concrete proof of Bigfoot, do you think it's possible any evidence could emerge to definitively confirm it doesn't exist?
You could definitely rule out the possibility of Bigfoot in so far as the evidence it relates to; what made the print, left the hair, made the nest or structure. But the absence of evidence doesn't prove the non-existence of a species.
What advice would you give to someone pursuing the cryptids who might deal with pushback from their peers?
Anyone doing what I do will undoubtedly get some criticism from peers, as I have. My advice is to explore whatever interests you whether that's cryptids, ghosts, aliens, and to investigate with scientific rigor. Do your experiments in the same way that you would for any other kind of research or exploration. Write up your findings in the same way, with review from peers. So long as it's rigorous and honest, you should do it with pride. My advice to people who criticize scientists for exploring folklore and legend is remind them that curiosity has yielded remarkable scientific results. Homo floresiensis. As much as we know, we don't really know much, especially for a lot of areas that are outside the realm of most human experiences. So we must keep an open mind. Many people, have said that they are impressed by the fact that I, as a bona fide scientist, would explore something so unsubstantiated as Bigfoot. If this helps people to see the importance of scientific investigation, then I am thrilled, and I'll happily deal with the critics that way.
Are you at all concerned about possibly confirming the existence of Bigfoot and how that could lead toward their capture or even people hunting them?
Not anymore concerned than I would be with us habituating gorillas, lemurs, and other wild animals. There is always a risk of habituating animals and making them "available" to the world. But it is also one of the most effective ways of managing populations and enacting conservation strategies and protection. If anyone's going to confirm the existence of Bigfoot, then I would love for it to be me. And then I'll make sure, just as I did with the world's smallest primate I co-discovered, that we create a national park to protect them.