Leaving Your Body to Crime-Solving Science

Canada’s first “body farm” is a research facility where experts will hone their crime-solving knowledge, and people are lining up to donate their remains to the effort


If you’ve ever pondered donating your body to science, you might be one the many people interested in a new possibility. Set to open this spring in Bécancour, Quebec, near Trois-Rivières, the Secure Site for Research in Thanatology is already being flooded with offers from prospective donors.

Researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières will be using the bodies to study human decomposition—what happens to a human body left in a field or a car or buried in a shallow grave—to improve police investigations. Bodies will be exposed to a variety of elements and temperatures and will remain in the same spot for years.

Among the researchers’ goals is finding better methods for verifying how long a person has been dead.

Estimates are generally based on the life cycles of the insects consuming the body, but Canada’s cold climate means that there are month-long stretches in a year when there are no insects. The Quebec site is the perfect spot to learn more.

“Some of the research is about advancing our ability to search and recover victims, and to do that much more rapidly,” Shari Forbes, the director of the project, told Yahoo Canada. Scientists will use the site not only to train canine units, but also to explore whether drones can be used to locate missing remains.

The researchers will also working to create new methods for identifying bodies. “We typically rely on fingerprints, DNA, and teeth, but often after many years, that’s not available to identify the victim,” Forbes said.

Only researchers and police services, including canine units, will be able to visit the site.

Due to provincial regulations, the site is accepting residents from Quebec only, but other site are being planned for Ontario and western Canada.

Quebecers who are interested in donating their remains can e-mail Forbes at

Photo: iStock/nito100.