CSI: Nebraska

Feb 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Campus News, February 5, 2009, Issue

Recruitment videos wrap agronomy and horticulture concepts with elements of crime scene investigation

It’s a tricky case to solve. Someone uses a bat to murder a Nebraska baseball player and a team of scientists is called in to solve the crime. Pollen found on the body eventually leads the team to the killer.

If you want to watch the complete mystery, go to YouTube and search for Big Red Green Team. You’ll find the story “Batter Luck Next Time” as well as one called “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” in which the scientists must determine who vandalized the turf on a golf course.

Both stories are a spoof of the popular TV series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and were created by the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. Erin Bauer, UNL Extension assistant in the department’s pesticide education office, wrote both scripts in an effort to attract more high school students to the field of agronomy and horticulture.

clue hunt
CLUE HUNT – Big Red Team investigators examine damaged turf in the Agronomy and Horticulture video “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” Courtesy photo.

“Because ‘CSI’ is such a popular show, this is a way to spark interest using that theme,” Bauer said. “We’re hoping this gets people interested in agronomy and horticulture.”

Each episode of the show, called “Investigating Scenes of Crime,” focuses on some aspect of agronomy and horticulture, Bauer said.

For example, in the baseball episode, traces of pollen found on the player were traced to a UNL greenhouse and a Husker Rose plant. In the golf course story, scientists discovered a pesticide was used to kill turf at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course.

The videos are posted to YouTube and on the department’s Web site in hopes they will be watched by potential students.

“It’s more of a creative way to pull them in and make them aware of the career paths in agronomy and horticulture,” Bauer said.

Department head Mark Lagrimini said the videos are part of an ongoing effort initiated when he arrived at UNL in 2005 to increase enrollment in the department.

The department started its increase after beginning a marketing campaign developed by Swanson Russell Associates to focus more on environment and sustainability and less on production agriculture.

The department developed its Big Red Green Team, which consists of students, faculty, alumni and industry professionals who hire students, and placed posters in high schools focusing on the “green” theme. It started pages on MySpace and Facebook and posted videos of recent graduates on its Web site talking about their new jobs.

reporter interview
REPORTER INTERVIEW – A reporter interviews Nebraska baseball players in the Agronomy and Horticulture video, “Batter Luck Next Time.” Photo by Erin Bauer/UNL Extension.

“We thought the green campaign was a better representation of who we are,” he said.

The effort seems to be working. The department had eight consecutive years of declining enrollment until the 2007-08 academic year, when enrollment increased from 171 to 175. Enrollment was 190 in 2008-09 and it is on target to increase more in 2009-10, Lagrimini said.

The CSI spoofs are a continuation of the department’s efforts to reach students in less traditional ways, Lagrimini said. The idea arose after Lagrimini attended an event at UNL where high school students interested in science said they were influenced by shows like “CSI.”

Bauer wrote the scripts, actors were cast to play the roles of characters given names like Thorn Sharp, Trace Mercury and Chip Micro. Brad Mills, video producer with Communications and Information Technology, filmed and directed the episodes.

Lagrimini said he still believes that visits to high school students and counselors are the best recruiting tool, but the videos have a place.

“I think every little bit helps,” he said. “You have to keep getting your name and your image out there.”

— Story by Lori McGinnis, IANR News Service

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