The only one of its kind in Canada, the external human thanatology research laboratory of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR), located in Bécancour, started its activities at the end of last summer, welcoming the first bodies. humans intended for the study of cadaveric decomposition.
Bearing the name of the Thanatological Sciences Research site [Expérimentales et Sociales], or REST[ES], this secure open-air installation will allow students to learn more about the physical, chemical and biological processes of human decomposition in a northern continental climate, in order to help police forces in their investigations into deaths or in the search for missing persons. .
“The bodies used at the REST site[ES] usually arrive within 24 to 48 hours of death. They come from people who have generously chosen to offer their remains specifically for this project, through the body donation program of the Human Anatomy Laboratory of UQTR. The corpses are studied with the greatest respect for ethical standards, over periods that may extend up to several years. The remains are then cremated and returned to the families, ”explained Professor Shari Forbes, Director of REST.[ES] and internationally recognized forensic scientist.
Located on land owned by the Société du parc industrielle et portuaire de Bécancour (SPIPB) – which allows UQTR to use the premises free of charge -, the REST site[ES] occupies an area of approximately 1,600 square meters in a secluded and wooded area. Surrounded by a secure fence, it is under constant surveillance to ensure the proper conduct of research as well as the integrity and respect of donors.
“Currently, there is little data on how human decomposition takes place in areas where temperatures can range from -40 ° C to 40 ° C. Thanks to our research on the REST site[ES], carried out throughout the year, we will better understand the events and factors that affect human remains after death, under such climatic conditions. We will also be able to improve our estimate of the time elapsed since a death, ”notes Professor Forbes, who holds the Canada 150 Research Chair in forensic thanatology.
Work carried out at the REST site[ES] will improve the methods used for the search, location, recovery and identification of missing persons and victims of homicides and disasters. The REST site[ES] will also serve as a training venue for law enforcement, search and rescue teams, forensic pathologists, students, and forensic death investigation consultants.
A collaborative crossroads
In addition to Professor Forbes, researchers from several disciplines (forensic chemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, geology, soil science, geophysics, geochemistry, ecology, entomology, pathology, odontology, anthropology, archeology, remote sensing, biometrics, human and social sciences relating to on perceptions of death in our societies, etc.), coming from UQTR and other establishments, will participate in the work of the REST site[ES].
“The entry into operation of this exceptional research site is excellent news for the advancement of knowledge in forensics and in many other fields,” commented Sébastien Charles, vice-rector for research and development at UQTR. The REST site[ES] is called upon to become an important place for interdisciplinary collaboration, while allowing the training of students and postdoctoral fellows and the creation or strengthening of partnerships in Quebec, Canada and internationally. Our society will undoubtedly benefit from the transfer of knowledge made possible by the work of this unique research infrastructure in northern climate. ”
Remember that as a prelude to the opening of the REST site[ES], Professor Shari Forbes and her team carried out research on the UQTR campus using pig carcasses. This work enabled various experiments and the acquisition of valuable data, with a view to the REST operation.[ES]. Thanks to the pig remains, the researchers were able to test instruments (sensors, cameras, etc.) and validate their methods of collecting information and samples (specimens of odors, tissues, soil or vegetation).
Research carried out by the REST team of scientists[ES] are funded by various government sources: the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, an Audacity grant from the Quebec Research Funds and a grant from the Academic Development Fund of the network from the University of Quebec.
In addition to operating the REST site[ES], unique on Canadian soil, note that UQTR is also the only Quebec university to offer training in forensic science (forensic science), since 2012.