Canada's first 'body farm' set to open in the spring
TORONTO -- Some of the bodies will be buried in shallow graves. Some will be left in vehicles. Others, still, will be placed on the ground outside, exposed to the elements.
In all of the scenarios, the human bodies will be meticulously studied by forensic scientists on a daily basis to see how they decompose in their various states.
“Our team goes out there every single day to understand how decomposition is occurring in those different environments and that’s how we get a better understanding of time since death by studying these over weeks, months, and even years,” Shari Forbes, the director of the Secure Site for Research in Thanatology, or the “body farm,” told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
The body farm is located in Becancour, near Trois-Rivieres, Que., and is an outdoor facility where donated dead bodies are left outside to decay so forensic scientists can learn about decomposition.
The scientists will monitor how the bodies decompose in different temperatures, how cadaver dogs pick up the scent of human remains, how long fingerprints, DNA, and teeth can be recovered, and how the life stages of the insects that eat and lay eggs on the bodies can help to determine the time of death. That knowledge is then passed on to police.
“We intend that it will be used by police in forensic services so we want to make sure our research improves the way we search for victims, how we recover and identify them, and estimating time since death,” Forbes explained.
The facility is expected to open in the spring and will be Canada’s first body farm.
While there are other body farms located in other countries, such as the U.S., Australia, and the Netherlands, Forbes said the new one in Quebec will be unique because of the country’s climate.
“Most facilities are located in very warm climates and in Canada, in particular Quebec, for six months of the year that simply doesn’t apply to us,” she said. “We’re particularly interested in understanding what happens when a body is in sub-zero temperatures, when there’s a lot of snow on the ground, and how that freeze and then the thaw process might actually change the rate of decomposition compared to what we’d see in these other facilities.”
In order to ensure their research is useful for investigations, Forbes said they work closely with police and forensic services to understand what they need for certain cases. She said they ask what scenarios are most common and they’ll recreate those scenes. Sometimes, she said police will ask them to recreate a very specific scene for a case they’re working on.
“All of our research is dictated by what the police and forensic services need,” she said.
As for where the bodies come from, Forbes said they’re all donated to the facility.
“People donate for a variety of reasons, whether that’s altruism, for an environmental focus, or simply because they love watching ‘CSI,’ but all of our donors know exactly what they’re contributing to,” she said.
Anyone interested in donating their bodies to the facility can visit this website.