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News : "Dirty Jobs" crew visits Purdue Entomology

"Dirty Jobs" crew visits Purdue Entomology
By Justin L. Mack Journal and Courier
Mike Rowe, host of

Purdue University graduate student Kristi Bugajski wants people to know that when she goes Dumpster diving for maggots on a Thursday afternoon, she is doing it for a good reason.

That's why Bugajski was thrilled to learn that she will soon be one of the Purdue entomologists featured on a popular reality show dedicated to the men and women who do the dirtiest work.

"I think it's really cool to be able to educate the rest of the world, because most people think it's nasty and it's disgusting and why would anyone ever want to do this," she said. "Yes, it's a little bit gross, but here is why we do it and this is how we do it. We don't just pick maggots for fun."

Mike Rowe, host of "Dirty Jobs" which airs on the Discovery Channel, spent about eight hours Thursday working with Purdue students who study forensic entomology. That's the process in which insects are used to determine a subject's time of death and other information to aid in criminal investigations.

Rowe's crew captured every moment as the students presented him with four dead pigs in different locations, and gave him a hands-on look at how maggots and other insects can be used to determine time of death.

For Rowe, who has done more than 300 dirty jobs since the show began six years ago, his time on Purdue's campus ranks among the nastiest.

"We were here from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., which for us is about half of the time we would normally spend, but it had three times the stink that we would normally encounter and probably five times the smarts we would normally deal with," he said. "In the end, it was a very compact and efficient 'Dirty Jobs.'

"You've got some really big brains doing some important work, and at the same time you have young kids learning the trade."

Purdue entomology professor Ralph Williams said though death investigations are the primary focus for forensic entomologists, the technique can be used in abuse and neglect cases as well.

Williams said he began teaching the technique at Purdue in 2002.

"We showed Mike the whole nine yards today. I thought it was fantastic," Williams said. "I stepped back and let (the students) do the dirty work."

Graduate student Clayton Nolting said Rowe's visit became a possibility after he learned that the host wanted to feature forensic entomology on the show. Nolting said he contacted "Dirty Jobs" representatives after a planned visit to another university fell through.

"It's not like we wanted to take it from underneath them," Nolting said. "I just knew we had the ability to properly show the process."

On Thursday, the students led Rowe through the time of death process as they inspected a pig on the ground, one wrapped in a tarp, one that was in a trash can and another placed in a Dumpster.

"The one in the tarp was the worst because of the smell," said Nolting. "Mike and his crew were doing a lot of spitting and gagging. I was pretty sure someone was going to throw up."

After a long day full of new and unusual smells, Rowe said his time on the West Lafayette campus was a positive experience.

Rowe said that while it is too early to determine when the footage shot at Purdue will air, he can guarantee that it will.

"Unlike any other show on television ... we use everything we shoot," he said. "Even when it goes wrong ... we find a way to use what we've got.

"We work too hard to waste the time."

Rowe said the concept for "Dirty Jobs" stemmed from a three-hour mini-series he pitched to the Discovery Channel in 2003 called "Somebody's Gotta Do It." After the mini-series earned impressive ratings, the idea grew into the show that is now entering its sixth season.

"The show really started as an anthem to manual labor, and we found that when you throw dirt into the mix, you get something that transcends just blue-collar or white-collar work," he said. "It's not really about us, and it's not really about me. It's a way to celebrate hard work, and to show that hard work and fun can happen at the same time."