Daniel H. Janzen

Professor of Biology
School of Arts & Sciences

daniel janzen

What’s your job?
“What we [Janzen and his research partner, biologist Winnie Hallwachs] do, aside from teaching courses, is facilitate the emergence and evolution of the national park structure and activity in Costa Rica. We do this by studying biodiversity in those national parks and trying to figure out how, by understanding that biodiversity, we can help integrate that park with the rest of Costa Rica society. That is based on the concept that if Costa Rica society figures they are gaining from the society of national parks, they would be more willing to keep them existing.” Janzen and Hallwachs, who is also his wife, advocate for and raise money to preserve the Guanacaste Conservation Area, a chain of diverse ecosystems in northwest Costa Rica.

What’s so crucial about these ecosystems?
“Think of them as multifaceted resource portfolios. … They’re basically water factories for big parts of the country. The second thing they are is effective universities where one can intelligently learn about and study nature.”

Do you teach?
“I teach Bio 140 and 440 on humans and environment; they are about the ways that people interact with the rest of the non-people. … I study nature, not people, and I relate to people as I need to, to help nature stay in the game.”

Why is there a treadmill in your office?
“A donor bought one for us. I’m of that age—I need to do a moderate amount of exercise. It goes two miles an hour, flat. In days, you don’t know it’s there anymore. [I spend] six to 10 hours a day simply walking—that’s 10 to 20 kilometers [about six to 12 miles] of walking every day. It’s an amazingly useful device. Every faculty member ought to have one.”