From volunteer to philanthropist for the Space for Life museums

Marie-Victorin Herbarium
Credit: Espace pour la vie/Michel Tremblay
Herbier Marie-Victorin
  • Herbier Marie-Victorin
  • Photos de modèle de fleur en 3D issues des recherches du laboratoire du botaniste Simon Joly au Jardin botanique.
From volunteer to philanthropist for the Space for Life museums

In December 2022 the Space for Life Foundation received a generous donation from Yves Paquette. That donation made it possible to purchase specialty equipment for digitizing in three dimensions the smaller specimens in the Space for Life museums’ most valuable collections. A dedicated volunteer at Space for Life, the retired biomedical scientist undertook this philanthropic approach both to participate in the progress of science and to honor the memory of his wife, herself a volunteer at the Jardin botanique for many years. His inspiring story is being highlighted in this National Volunteer Week.

The important place of volunteering

Before the pandemic, Mr. Paquette’s wife was an active volunteer in classifying and preserving the essential elements of the Marie-Victorin Herbarium, part of the Institut de recherche en biologie végétale (IRBV) at the Jardin botanique. Motivated by his wife’s commitment, Mr. Paquette in turn rallied to the cause by joining the team of Étienne Normandin and Colin Favret, respectively coordinator and curator of the Ouellet-Robert Entomological Collection. That collection contains one and a half million insect specimens!

Yves Paquette was looking for a way to honor the memory of a woman who was such an inspiration to him. His wife had left a bequest in support of the advancement of science, and he thought he would make a donation with that in mind, while carrying on with his volunteer work at the IRBV.

Researcher, teacher, volunteer, then philanthropist

The holder of a doctorate in biochemistry, Mr. Paquette spent almost all his professional life in research laboratories, except for four years when he taught science at the Cégep level. His enthusiasm and his scientific expertise led him to work on a number of projects in biomedical research, including the development of new vaccines and the study of genetic diseases and certain cancers.

On the basis of his scientific career, he was already highly conscious of the complex funding processes for obtaining specialty equipment. It was with that awareness that he proposed underwriting the purchase of a device capable among other things of modeling in 3D insects, meteorite samples and all sorts of plants at Space for Life. The device is used to automate the taking of pictures of specimens in all orientations in order to reconstruct a 3D model that perfectly represents the original object.

The Space for Life museum institutions are rich in stories and discoveries with great value for the advancement of science. This high-performance tool will make it possible to conserve the collections of the Insectarium, the Planétarium and the Jardin botanique that are unique in the world and to share access to them digitally. The digitization of rare insects and the type specimens used to describe them, for example, will allow us to conserve the Insectarium’s entomological references.

In a context of biodiversity crisis, the apparatus will help advance research on species at risk of extinction while at the same time preserving living individuals. The research teams of the museums receiving the device, acquisition of which is expected at some point in 2023, welcome this news with open arms. The apparatus will allow them to develop their work further, and the work of students as well.

A volunteer commitment for science – and for the community!

Mr. Paquette’s volunteer commitment goes well beyond the walls of scientific institutions. When the pandemic was at its worst, he volunteered to help out a food bank in his neighborhood. Since then he’s been devoting one or two days of his time a week to developing computer tools and to helping newcomers in preparing their tax returns.

As a major donor, volunteer and activist for the community and for science, Mr. Paquette is a source of inspiration. Those who meet him are certain to feel a desire to get involved and to contribute to the great adventure of knowledge, just like his late wife. It’s human meetings like this, with people of great generosity and exceptional caring, that make up the very essence of the Space for Life Foundation community.


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