Toronto Botanical Garden Honours Prof. Paul Hebert

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Prof. Paul Hebert, Integrative Biology, will receive an Aster Award from the Toronto Botanical Garden during a special event Nov. 20.

He is one of two Canadians – the other being author Margaret Atwood – receiving the award this year. It recognizes achievements in arts and science that inspire others to preserve nature.

Hebert will be recognized for his groundbreaking work in DNA barcoding. “Upon first hearing of Dr. Hebert’s visionary Barcode of Life project almost 10 years ago, it sounded straight out of science fiction to me,” said Harry Jongerden, TBG executive director.

“If Dr. Hebert hadn’t envisioned the Barcode of Life, perhaps Margaret Atwood would have imagined it. The author and creator of imagined worlds, and of characters the likes of ‘God’s Gardeners,’ connects us emotionally to nature, while the scientist provides us with the rigour to understand nature. We believe the pairing of this year’s recipients is very fitting, if not inspired,” said Jongerden.

The honorary chair of this year’s event is Charles Pachter, one of Canada’s leading contemporary artists.

Hebert is best known for leading the development of DNA-based identification systems. He is director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario and the scientific director of the International Barcode of Life Project, the largest program ever undertaken in biodiversity science and involving researchers in 25 nations. He also holds a Canada Research Chair in molecular biodiversity and is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

“I am very pleased to receive this award because I’ve long been in love with botanic gardens,” Hebert said. “They are magical places; they juxtapose colours, shapes and scents in ways unknown in the wild world. They also remind us of our capacity and responsibility to care for the other species on our planet.”