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January 28, 2011

Sasquatch researcher speaks at IUS

Idaho State professor follows footprints to track elusive apes

NEW ALBANY — Jeff Meldrum researches Bigfoot.

But not like those television experts or online theorists. Instead of relying on sketches from sketchy eyewitnesses or blowing testimony out of proportion, he bases his research on evidence he thinks is compelling — footprints.

Meldrum, a biology professor at Idaho State University, spoke to a crowd at Indiana University Southeast on Thursday about his findings from footprints that have been collected from all over the world, reportedly from these ape-like creatures.

“If I were satisfied that these were just hoaxes and folklore, I wouldn’t spend the time on this that I do,” Meldrum said.

He said his studies are rooted in trying to analyze some of the anatomic indicators that can be found in footprints, such as how these animals might move and their estimated size.

Doug Darnowski, associate professor of biology at IUS, invited Meldrum to speak at the university after hearing him on a radio program and reading one of his books on the subject.

“He can match these things in one place and find them between unconnected people over periods of decades,” Darnowski said. “There’s so much detailed information he’s found in these things like the dermal ridges shown in the prints.”

Meldrum said he knows subjects like Sasquatch can appear campy and some of the evidence shown from other sources isn’t scientific, but he tries to be as open-minded in his approach as he can.

“You need to rein in your imagination and really look at this from an objective standpoint,” Meldrum said.

While some of the prints show striking similarities, he said some of them appear to be from different species altogether.

His presentation showing the East Asian Yeti seems to have completely different footprints from North American specimens. He said depending on where the prints are found, he believes the biomechanical adaptations demonstrated in the prints are distinctively built to function in the environments they come from.

“Their feet are elegantly designed to move a large mass in those kinds of environments,” Meldrum said.

An audience member asked why the body of such an animal had yet to be found and Meldrum answered that fossilization is a relatively rare occurrence. He said harsh environments can decompose even bone easily, and scavengers eat all but the hardest bones from carcasses.

He said thousands of deer die annually in some parts of the country, yet few skeletons are ever found.

Darnowski said after the presentation he wasn’t any more compelled to believe in Bigfoot, Sasquatch or the Yeti than he was before. But that’s because he already thought such creatures might exist.

Darnowski said whether students believed in the animals or not, the approach Meldrum took to the research was something they could relate to in their studies.

“I think the nice thing about it, especially for our students, is that it highlights things that are outside of our textbooks,” Darnowski said, “but it shows things they can use practically in other topics. They can make sense of things and see what he’s talking about.

“That, and it’s just fun.”

Meldrum said he’ll continue to research Bigfoot because he wants to continue finding new information.

“That’s what science is all about, answering questions,” Meldrum said. “To walk away from it would be unscientific, in my opinion.”

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David Bennett, Jeffersonville, is pictured at Riverview Village in Clarksville where he is undergoing rehabilitation after losing his leg due to diabetic complications. Bennett is a 1981 New Albany High School graduate, and was on the 1980 basketball team that finished the season with a 27-1 record.

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