Let’s be honest: many conservationists may start their careers with big ambitions. But as they, and their careers, age, those ambitions — especially in light of the Anthropocene — understandably shrink. Saving one forest or one species begins to look like a large enough legacy — and for many it is. Not for Daniel Janzen and Winifred Hallwachs. As they’ve aged, and their careers with them, their ambitions have grown.
Janzen and Hallwachs are now in the midst of kicking off something no one has gotten remotely close to since Carl Linnaeus began the systematic describing of species in the mid-1700s. In a project they call BioAlfa, they will attempt to identify every single species in a nation. And not a temperate, low-biodiversity nation, but a life-teeming, bio-rich, jungle country: Costa Rica.