Jessie Deslauriers’ “favourite place in the world” is the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS). She’s honouring the place where she spent so much time while earning her biology degrees with a $1 million gift to build a new research and teaching facility.
The building, which will open officially next spring, has a library named in honour of Ms. Deslauriers’ father, noted journalist Jack Hambleton, four laboratory classrooms and a herbarium.
“QUBS is so important for research and learning, especially now as field stations across the country are much diminished,” says Ms. Deslauriers, Artsci'87, Artsci'91.
Now retired, the Kingston resident earned her degrees by taking one course a year while working full-time as an administrator in a number of Queen’s departments. She also sat on University Council for eight years.
Ms. Deslauriers’ love for biology stretches back to her youth when she roamed through Toronto’s green spaces rescuing injured birds and baby bats.
Her father indulged her enthusiasm for all things wild and natural because he too had a love for nature, as well as being a well-known author and newspaper reporter. The first editions of his published works, which include topics on Ontario hunting and fishing, will have found a home in the Jack Hambleton Library, a key feature of the new facility.
At QUBS, Ms. Deslauriers found her family. Long-time QUBS director Raleigh Robertson (now retired), QUBS manager Frank Phelan, and past assistant manager Floyd Connor became her “brothers.” A cabin in which she stayed while doing her field research, fondly referred to as Bunkie One, became her home away from home.
“Those guys always accommodated me even when my job got in the way of my studies. They found ways to let me continue my research,” she says.
Stephen Lougheed, the current director of QUBS, cannot say enough about Ms. Deslauriers’ generous spirit and what it will do for the station.
“A gift of this magnitude will enrich the lives of hundreds and hundreds of students for years to come. It will help them gain insights into and passion for the natural world,” he says.
In practical terms, Dr. Lougheed sees the new facility as a “capacity building enterprise” that will greatly enhance teaching and research for undergraduate and graduate students, not just from Queen’s but from around the world.
The library, with a view of Lake Opinicon, will be a beautiful and calming space, where researchers can congregate and students will write their papers and theses. The 144,000-specimen herbarium will foster new research in plant ecology and conservation including work on invasive species. The four new laboratories will allow for multiple research groups and classes to work simultaneously.
Dr. Lougheed believes Ms. Deslauriers' gift speaks powerfully to connections people have with QUBS. As one of the premier scientific field stations in Canada, thousands of students have studied and explored the Lake Opinicon area for almost 70 years. They’ve conducted research and participated in courses spanning ecology, evolution, conservation, geography and environmental science. Ms. Deslauriers is creating a lasting legacy for this remarkable place that continues to inspire students seeking to understand the natural world.