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CBC's Metro Morning features DNA Forensic Camp

During a visit to Trent University in the spring, Andy Barrie, host of CBC's Metro Morning, took a keen interest in the University's DNA Forensic Camp, also known as CSI Peterborough. On August 26 at 8:15 a.m., he delved deeper into the fascinating world of forensics as he interviewed two 17 year-old enthusiasts who are attending the camp this week.

Michael Lucci, 17, of Toronto, and Adrienne Berchtold, 17, of Caledon, spoke to Mr. Barrie about their affinity for forensics, their strong stomachs and the week's activities at CSI Peterborough...

Mr. Barrie: "Well CBS may have CSI Miami, but we've got CSI Peterborough - that's the aka of a camp attracting kids from Toronto and all over North America and even Europe this summer. The DNA Forensics Camp at Trent University is teaching the campers how to look for crime scene clues. One camper is Michael Lucci, he is 17 years old and he comes from Toronto. Michael, good morning.

Mr. Lucci: Good morning, how are you?

Mr. Barrie: Good, thanks. Adrienne Berchtold is 17 - she's from Caledon. Adrienne, good morning.

Ms. Berchtold: Good morning.

Mr. Barrie: Adrienne we'll start with you. Why this camp, of all the kinds of ways you could spend your summer?

Ms. Berchtold: Well to be honest I've always been interested in forensics, and it's really a great way to get to know the field a bit better and you really get to see whether it's something you want to do in the future - pursue in university.

Mr. Barrie: Were you drawn to forensics through television? I'm just wondering, were you a CSI fan?

Ms. Berchtold: Not really, I've only seen the show a couple of times.

Mr. Barrie: So what was it then, what was the...seed that grew into the tree that is your curiosity?

Ms. Berchtold: Well, my mother told me about it when I was younger - around 12 years old, and then in school we have the opportunity to research different careers that we might be interested in pursuing and so that was one of the ones. And I've just kept up with it ever since, I've always done projects on it in school and it's just really interesting.

Mr. Barrie: Michael, yourself, what have you been doing at camp, how do you spend your week?

Mr. Lucci: The weeks are very packed in, we have a lot to do. We started the week with a lot of theory and things on genetics to get a base knowledge of how everything works. From there we build on skills and yesterday we actually had our own crime scene, we had our own team to investigate a crime scene - there were several - a homicide, an armed robbery, a sexual assault and a break and enter. We had the armed robbery. So the entire week we just build on new skills, add new skills, and we apply them the following day.

Mr. Barrie: How was that scene, Adrienne, presented to you?

Ms. Berchtold: Well when you walk in, you see that there is a chair turned over with a rope and duct tape and you can tell that someone has been tied in there and maybe held hostage - there’s just lots of evidence like footprints and mud on the ground from someone climbing through the window because the screen is ripped off the window and cut open and stuff like that.

Mr. Barrie: Is there any evidence you've been asked to understand that kids, sorry you're not kids, young adults sorry, less informed than yourselves would call gross - do they get you into the serious stuff?

Ms. Berchtold: In the homicide scene, which one group had yesterday, there was actually sheep's blood - they used sheep's blood - on the carpet and also on the walls. So, I didn't find it gross, but I think some young adults might.

Mr. Barrie: When you meet other people, we were saying from the United States, from Europe, this is a very unusual kind of camp, I imagine each of them where they come from has, what must be thought to be a pretty specialized curiosity and here you're all together. It must be very interested and comforting in some way to share this curiosity with so many other people.

Ms. Bertchtold: It is, it's really great to be able to discuss it with other students who have a basic knowledge in it - in the field.

Mr. Barrie: And don't find it weird.

Ms. Berchtold: Yeah, exactly.

Mr. Barrie: Michael, When you explained to people what you were doing this summer, what kind of reaction did you get from your buds?

Mr. Luccie: They say, 'You're going to camp? You're 17 - haven't you done that already?'

Mr. Barrie: And when you tell them what kind of camp you're going to?

Mr. Lucci: They don't understand, they don't…grasp the concept of looking for small things to solve a big puzzle. They just say, 'Why don't you just relax, why don't you come to the beach?' I say ‘I'll never have this chance to do it again, this is a great opportunity.’

Mr. Barrie: So did you guys play Clue as kids?

Mr. Lucci: I did yes, I did play Clue.

Ms. Berchtold: Yes.

Mr. Barrie: Dr. Muster was nowhere involved in this crime scene you were looking at yesterday (laughing).

Mr. Lucci: No, no he wasn't.

Ms. Berchtold: No

Mr. Barrie: Do you expect, Adrienne, to pursue a career in this?

Ms. Berchtold: Oh definitely, definitely.

Mr. Barrie: And I imagine when you apply to university this will be looked at very, very favourably.

Ms. Berchtold: Yes, and another great thing about the camp is that they bring in experts in the field, so we’ve had the opportunity to ask them how they got into their careers, how they got their jobs and it’s really great to learn the different paths that you can take through post-secondary education.

Mr. Barrie: Ten years from now, the morning after some horrific crime, we might be talking to you again. Thanks so much for speaking to us this morning.

Ms. Berchtold: No problem.

Mr. Barrie: Bye.

Ms. Berchtold: Bye

Michael Lucci and Adrienne Berchtold are students from the Toronto area, they’re at the DNA Forensics Camp at Trent University in Peterborough. You can learn more about the camp at I was up in Peterborough when I first heard about this, visiting Trent, visiting Peter Gzowski College as a matter of fact. You know what they told me? They’re now using DNA to catch poachers - to catch people who are hunting animals out of season. They walk up to guy’s house, who they think is responsible for killing a deer, for instance, out of season and they’ll say ‘We think you’ve got some venison in your freezer that we’d like a look at.’

‘Oh, no I don’t.’

‘Well we have a DNA sample from the carcass here and we’d like to compare it to the DNA of the meat in your freezer.’

And they just give themselves up - that’s it. Ministry of Natural Resources nails them right on the doorstep. And this is a procedure, DNA typing was a procedure that was just so impossibly sophisticated - it’s still sophisticated - but not certainly available to people who were hunting down hunters out of season. Quite a place up at Trent - worth knowing more about - if you want to know more.

Posted August 26, 2004

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