Winnie Hallwachs

Biologist, courtesy appointment, research partner to Daniel H. Janzen
School of Arts & Sciences

Winnie Hallwachs

You’ve worked with Daniel Janzen since you came here as a student in 1978. What’s changed in your field over the years?
“I would say the biggest change of all, of course, has been the development of technology. It’s opened more and more windows, first with the handling of data, then with cameras.” Hallwachs has worked with Janzen on his research that has focused primarily on caterpillars, including the plants they eat and the parasites that eat them. She does what she calls “muddy boots-based research,” helping Janzen to document and sequence a portion of the DNA of roughly 12,000 species. Hallwachs, who is married to Janzen, has also worked with her husband to help raise money to conserve a part of northwestern Costa Rica, where they conduct their research.

What’s the best part of your job?
“Definitely being in the field. For me, the most enjoyable times are, in a strange sense, collecting data—going out with a video camera into the forest. We live in Costa Rica in a house that is always open. You can always hear insects, birds, sometimes it’s a frog. … It’s a small house constructed for park guards. [It has] one room that’s a bedroom, a little bathroom, and a refrigerator room to run a refrigerator. We have gradually gotten more space for work and storage.”

What kind of work do you do here, back on campus?
“A major part of our ongoing work is having the genetic sequence extracted from insects that we have collected in our projects in their legs. We have an incredible assistant and lab leader [Tanya Dapkey]. She happens to have taken more legs off more insects than anyone.”