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Exclusive: Dr. Mireya Mayor of Expedition Bigfoot keeps an open mind, consults with Jane Goodall

Dr. Mireya Mayor knows people are skeptical but believes there is something to the Bigfoot lore. Pic credit: Travel Channel/Mireya Mayor.

Expedition Bigfoot is back on Travel Channel and discovery+. 

One cast member, primatologist, Fulbright Scholar, and National Science Foundation Fellow, Dr. Mireya Mayor, is a Bigfoot “want to believer.” 

More importantly, her scientific credibility and her consultation with renowned primatologist and researcher Dr. Jane Goodall give a whole new twist on Expedition Bigfoot. Of course, the controversial subject is fodder for other reality shows, like the affable AIMS Team in Appalachia

But these serious and educated women are grounded in just the facts. They keep an open mind amidst the growing evidence that a large hominid is hiding in remote areas living their hairy lives peacefully.

Perusing last year’s news, you can find the horrific wildfires coverage in the Pacific Northwest that forced the Expedition Bigfoot team to evacuate the Olympic Peninsula.

The timing was awful as the team had discovered new evidence. As a result, the new Season 3 of Expedition Bigfoot with acclaimed primatologist Dr. Mireya Mayor and Bigfoot experts Bryce Johnson, Ronny LeBlanc, and Russell Acord has returned to Washington State.

During the last two years, she and the team have studied all collected evidence and determined that something is afoot in America’s isolated and woodsy areas and beyond. Even Florida has accounts of an unidentified bipedal hominid that is neither chimpanzee nor human.

Who to believe? This mystery makes Dr. Mayor fired up to find out the truth and keep an open mind as the team interviews first account witnesses and even conducts DNA tests on collected samples. 

In the preview show, Dr. Mayor stressed that you have to recreate things in scientific evaluations and that despite some pushback from other academics on this subject of a 7-foot hairy man-ape, she must keep that open mind that Goodall implores her in a phone conference after the two discuss the ongoing case files.

Expedition Bigfoot’s new season

Mayor talked to Monsters & Critics exclusively about the challenges of being a former NFL cheerleader, daughter of Cuban immigrants, and mother of six in her profession stuffed with globe-trotting elite explorers [men] who have not always been so generous in their scientific camaraderie.

But Mayor loves to be underestimated as she proves her mettle by her achievements as a primatologist, anthropologist, and conservationist. 

This mother of six children is a Global Changemaker by Fulbright, an Explorers Club Fellow, a National Science Foundation Fellow, and Emmy Award-nominated wildlife correspondent. 

She also shares with us that STEM is her passion for school children, and she has accepted a position at the university level to get kids plugged into these math and science courses for tomorrow’s needed future scientists and engineers.

Back in 2019, she joined Expedition Bigfoot as a researcher and scientist. In the course of her involvement, she tells us she went from being a bit on the fence to fully accepting that there is something out there not human, and what it is exactly is a process unfolding before our eyes. 

The new season kicks off with a special New Evidence pre-show at 9 p.m. ET/PT on March 20, and the team looks back at their journey. The special includes a surprising conversation with renowned primatologist Jane Goodall and Dr. Mayor and then launches into the season premiere.

Exclusive interview with Dr. Mireya Mayor

Monsters & Critics: What was the initial evidence or event that made you think there’s something to this Bigfoot conversation, and what pulled you in the research?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: I’ll be frank with you when I was first approached to join this team. I nearly said no, because I had never been interested in the Bigfoot phenomenon. 

And I honestly didn’t know very much about it. When I spoke to the team members, I saw that what they wanted was someone to ground the expedition in science and be able to analyze any evidence that was collected and also contribute skills out in the field. 

As someone who has been exploring the wild for more than two decades, I realized that they were taking a serious approach to this. And that it might be an excellent opportunity to explore what I call my backyard because all of my previous expeditions had been in very remote places like the Amazon, Madagascar, the Congo, Rwanda. 

And now, I talked to Jane Goodall about this. There was some criticism from the scientific community of my involvement. They thought it was a waste of time and that I should have never even entertained doing something like this. 

It was interesting to hear Jane talking about this because she had faced a lot of criticism early on in her career for going against mainstream science.

For example, she was the first to name the chimps instead of numbering them. This [method] was an outrage back then. And so we agreed that science cannot explore through closed doors and that at the very heart of science is curiosity. 

And so that the possibility of discovery [was there], and if you look back at my career history, I have only ever gone in pursuit of animals that were thought to either be extinct or had never been studied or had never photographed. So animals deemed impossible to find, that’s my career history. 

So it almost made perfect sense for me to join this expedition. And after talking to Jane about it, I felt confident in my decision that I was not going to allow a closed mind to make mine up basically. 

I think it’s essential as a scientist that you go into these investigations with your feet firmly planted in science but also possess an open mind because certain things have happened in the field that, quite frankly, science can’t explain. But, still, I can’t just dismiss it because there’s a pattern.

M&C: Your interview with Jane Goodall was fascinating and open minds and curious minds and accepting minds are what we should be striving for in teaching with children too. How did you initially cross paths with Bryce, Ronnie, and Russell?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: Absolutely. Well, that’s an excellent question. I know Bryce was involved in the very start of this, trying to put a team together. And someone that I had worked with on an expedition where I trekked nearly a thousand miles across Africa suggested that he reach out to me. So that’s when the conversation started.

Russ came in later. And then, if you’ve seen season one, I was initially out in the field with RPG, Ryan Golembeske, and he got incredibly ill at the start of our expedition. He deteriorated before my eyes in a way I’ve never seen before, and he was medically evacuated. And so then, Ronnie was reached out to come and join.

M&C: Is he okay today?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: RPG? He’s doing great. Funny enough. I just saw him about a month ago in Florida, and he’s doing terrific, and I’m hoping that he comes to join us out in the field again because he’s great.

M&C: I live in the Pacific Northwest, aka Bigfoot country. We think that they like isolated woodsy, higher elevations. Florida is an exception. Are there any other indicators or markers that you would say if someone were to be looking for Bigfoot, and first of all, would you even recommend someone go looking for Bigfoot?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: Sure. I always recommend people explore their wild places and spaces. I’ve been exploring backyards since I was five, if not younger. Since the time I could crawl, I was curious about animals and their behavior, collecting and chasing lizards, and wanting to know why they moved the way they did and how they ate. 

And just everything about animals has always fascinated me. So I’m going to be the first person to say, absolutely get out there and explore because at the very end, even if you don’t find anything, you spend a glorious day in nature in the woods, and that’s always valuable. 

And you might find something else. I mean, that’s the other thing. Sometimes you’re out on an expedition, maybe even like the one I was on in Madagascar, where I searched for one particular animal and co-discovered a new species. So you don’t know, and the beauty of exploration and science is that it surprises you. 

As far as what to look for, that’s tricky because you look for things that stand out that seem out of place, which is crazy to think about when you’re in a wild space because there’s so much disarray. There are a lot of leaves on the ground, dirt, and branches, and it almost feels messy. And so, actually, what draws your eye is when there’s an order or if you see there’s a stem broken a certain way. 

And, of course, looking on the ground for prints. The other thing that you do is that you look for water sources because animals depend on, their lives depend on having water and possible shelters, also a necessity for animals and then abundant food sources. 

So you have to go from the basics because when dealing with something as unknown as Bigfoot, there’s no textbook to guide you. This fact is also one of the reasons that eyewitness accounts are so important. 

Even if they’re not all true, which I believe is the case, just one of them needs to be true. And, in fact, on many of my expeditions, I’ve always relied on eyewitness accounts to find what I’m after. So it’s almost like a CSI investigation where you’re trying to piece all the pieces together. 

You’re looking for small clues, sometimes clues that are almost invisible to the naked eye, but when you spend enough time out in the woods, you see them, and you start to follow those leads. And then those leads can bring you to more considerable evidence or a better spot. 

But it’s all about following the known existing wildlife because animals can’t live in complete isolation at the end of the day. And if you’re talking about an animal reported to be a predator, you want to go where the prey is. And, and so that’s how we look for them.

M&C: Speaking of clues, the architectural arranging of branches, and what looks like a fanning of branches, what do you make of that? Plus, people say that this creature is at least seven feet tall. What do they eat?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: Right. So there are a lot of accounts that I have read, and my partner, Ronnie, also heard accounts of Bigfoot described as an apex predator and where the animal was reported to be carrying deer on its back or running off with some farm animal. 

For me, it’s a tough one because, for example, gorillas are vegetarians. They eat all of the vegetation around them. They’re not hunters. But when you look at the chimpanzee communities, they frequently have organized hunts, which is remarkable and takes a significant amount of skill and intelligence. 

So it’s hard to say unless I see it with my own eyes. I’m going off accounts. And that, to me, that’s not real science. So I take it all in. And the possibility is, is that you might have an animal that is more sort of that hunter-gatherer or might be opportunistic, or maybe an actual hunter. 

We don’t know. And that’s where we have to pay close attention to the landscape, the animals in it, and the food availability and piece it together from there.

M&C: What are the things you posited in your conversation with Dr. Goodall? I know initially, she started with Dr. Leaky, and she wasn’t a doctor then.

Dr. Mireya Mayor: Jane and I have a lot of similarities in how we got started. As kids, both of us spent a lot of time in our respective backyard trees. 

I was always up in a mango tree. Jane was always up in one of the trees in her yard. And we had strong mothers who encouraged and supported us, created that independence, and nurtured curiosity. 

And then, like, Jane, I didn’t have a scientific background when I first got started. The antithesis, I was an NFL cheerleader. And she had dreamt of the wilds of Africa in the same way I had also dreamt of exploring the world because I grew up as an only daughter of Cuban immigrants. 

I grew up with very little means. I never traveled, didn’t have a passport, and wasn’t even allowed to join the Girl Scouts and go camping. So we both started from a place of wonder and curiosity and this big dream to go and explore. And, and then the rest of history. 

M&C: Jane mentioned that she thought they might be intelligent enough to bury their dead. Do you think that’s why we haven’t found any bones or skeletal remnants anywhere?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: To me, that’s the most puzzling and frustrating part of all of this. I think it’s possible. I can’t rule it out. I believe there’s this notion that humans are at the top of the food chain and are the most intelligent. 

And I happen to think that there may be a creature out there that’s outsmarting us. That is more sophisticated and intelligent. And who knows, maybe even has specific skills. I use that word very loosely, like adaptations, for example, camouflage, animals that can thoroughly blend into their substrate that we are not even aware of existing. And that quite clearly we don’t possess. So many of these things are possible.

M&C: We’ve touched on being a mother. You have six children. You’re fighting for STEM education. Especially for girls. Is this something that you’re focusing on and the television shows that you’re doing?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: I do. And yes. It’s the very reason that I moved back to Florida. I took a position at Florida International University as their exploration and science communication director. And I’m now overseeing a woman explored program, and a Woman Explores Award to nurture these young budding scientists early on in their careers. 

So that they’re not derailed by the challenges of women trying to pursue careers in STEM, and that’s something that I’m incredibly passionate about and growing up. I didn’t have those role models, quite frankly, because they’re not at the forefront. 

And you ask most people to name someone that does this, and they might be able to come up with the name Jane Goodall or Sylvia Earle, but there isn’t a lot of representation out there. 

And it’s been proven that when there’s representation, girls respond because they see something in that person like them and make them think that they can attain it too. 

Whether that’s social, economic, culture, race, gender, whatever it is, they can relate. And it’s encouraging these kids to pursue a career in STEM, and why is it that important? 

So STEM —put it this way— for innovation to happen, you have to have diverse points of view, and you can’t do that if women are not at the table. And my whole thing is, is that women are not just at the table, but that they are thought leaders at the head of the table because we do have a lot of different perspectives to offer that would benefit not just women but humankind in general.

M&C: Have you had pushback in your career just by being you being a woman? Have you experienced any at any level with these explorer elites?

Dr. Mireya Mayor: Sure. Yes. I know exactly what you’re talking about more times than I can count. And that is especially true because there is an idea, a stereotype of what a scientist quote, unquote looks like or say what a former NFL cheerleader might be able to do.

I mean, it’s all of these things combined, and then there’s the already present hindrance that a lot of these [organizations] are like men’s clubs. 

And again, at the television forefront, what do you see? You see khaki-clad white men. And so that was one of the reasons that I took a position at National Geographic as the first female wildlife correspondent. Because I felt that in addition to it giving me an extensive global platform to talk about the plight of animals all over the world and these wild places that I want to protect, it also gave women the opportunity to see a woman waste deep in a swamp and carrying massive gear around and coming face to face with a gorilla and being chased by an elephant.

We don’t generally see women doing all of these things, and it’s not that we’re not doing it at the end of the day. Some of the most incredible conservation projects and wildlife research are happening because there are women in the field doing it, but you don’t see it. 

And so that was important to me, not only that opportunity to bring these stories to light but also bring the fact that, yes, women are out here doing it all.

The new season kicks off with a special “New Evidence” pre-show at 9 p.m. ET/PT and then launches into the season premiere of Expedition Bigfoot at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Travel Channel.   

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  1. You are encountering what in the distant past was called the Jinn, or the guardians of the Jinn. They were capable of all sorts of magic and trickery.

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