ABOUT Danny Haelewaters

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I've always been an inquisitive person. Aiming to know a lot has played an important role in my youth. As a child I must have asked thousands of questions, probably more. My mom went nuts about it but she always answered, until the questions raised above her head and I had to search for answers by myself. This has led to an enormous number of books (my greatest possession) and a broad interest in things, science – biology – in particular.

From when I was able to utter my first few words as a baby I wanted to become a veterinary scientist, but you know how things go in life. So I became an assistant-salesman, an all-rounder at a hotel and even the running manager of a bed and breakfast in the rural South of France. However, the science was never too far away – it’s in my blood – so in the meanwhile I became a biologist and now I’m doing my PhD program at Harvard University. Speaking about some change!

Since the very beginning of my student career at Ghent University (Belgium) I have loved the interdisciplinary research in biology. It probably contributed to my choice of Laboulbeniales as the topic of my Master’s Thesis. These fungi are parasites on insects, and therefore play an important role in insect-dominated food webs. Studying Laboulbeniales, mycologists have to be in contact with entomologists and vice versa. The study of Laboulbeniales has been hell to me as well as a relief. I spent some time struggling to get to know them, how they look like, what they really are and how they act, but now I’m really enjoying and using that knowledge in order to even get more out of it. I guess in the end they have become close friends of mine.
Overall the number of fungi associated with insects is estimated to be in the order of 10.000 to 50.000 species. However this group has received little attention to date, which is unfortunate because we’re dealing with a parasitic relationship with possible phylogenetic parallels between host and parasite and all sorts of possible applications (e.g. as biological control agent).


Danny Haelewaters (° 1983) holds a Bachelor in Veterinary Science and a Master of Science in biology. Since July 2012, he has worked in the Farlow Herbarium of the Harvard University Herbaria (Cambridge, MA) as a PhD student. In addition to this research job, he also writes popular science articles for different sources, including Scientias.nl, Eos-magazine and FUNGI Magazine.


Danny Haelewaters: All Posts


Climate change and shrinking fishes

Posted 11 June 2013 by Danny Haelewaters

Anthropogenic global warming is everywhere. Nearly every week, new research with impacts of a warming Earth gets published. Global climate change is recognized as an important determining factor for the future distributions of marine organisms, notably fishes and invertebrates. It had already been suggested that the most prominent biological responses are changes in distribution, phenology, and productivity. More specifically, using temperature data since 1960, last year an international team of researchers found that life under water must migrate several hundreds... Read more

Great research, unexpected conclusion – Why fish is so good for you (?)

Posted 7 May 2013 by Danny Haelewaters

A few weeks ago I encountered two articles about unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids and their mechanism. Great research, but the tagline that was coupled with these studies - Why fish is so good for you - came rather unexpected. What follows are some commentary thoughts that have been crossing my mind since then. claimtoken-5192ec88c1031 In fatty fish species, as are anchovy, herring, mackerel, and salmon, unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA) are abundantly found. Their health-promoting... Read more

Effective skin protection in freshwater turtles

Posted 29 April 2013 by Danny Haelewaters

An Italian research team found that peptides As-BD-1 to 4, BD standing for beta-defensin, which are present in the epidermis, may be the cause of the resistance to bacterial penetration in Apalone spinifera turtles. Apalone spinifera (or Trionyx spiniferus) is the spiny soft-shell freshwater turtle, named for its short spiny projections on the anterior carapace edge. From a general point of view, turtles are characterized by their shell, which is corneous and supported in the dermis by dermal bones, protecting... Read more

Forensic Mycology: Taking Hebeloma to Court

Posted 22 March 2013 by Danny Haelewaters

A few years ago, I must have been 2009, I was part of the Netherlands Forensic Institute, in particular of the Line Department Microtraces (Non Human Biological Traces). This experience has had great impact on my evolution as a scientist. Likewise, I’ve become more than moderately interested in forensics – the study of evidence discovered at a crime scene and used in a court of law. Forensic science is a multidisciplinary field, considering the full range of botanical, zoological, and... Read more

Parasite host specificity related to host susceptibility to be killed?

Posted 8 March 2013 by Danny Haelewaters

In a previous post I introduced the Laboulbeniales: microscopic ascomycetous fungi that parasitize invertebrates, mainly beetles. The past few weeks my head was running fast on reading and developing theories on those mysterious organisms. Parasite having its own troubles A parasite, any parasite, has one huge problem: an individual must meet all its nutritional demands and avoid all its enemies on that one host or it dies. Especially for ectoparasites, as are Laboulbeniales, living attached to their host can be... Read more

Has evolutionary history led us to today’s rapes?

Posted 20 January 2013 by Danny Haelewaters

My mother always said that the world has come to its end. In a way, she was right. Not literally, of course. The earth will not stop turning around the sun. I’m talking about our species here. We think we are good in what we do, and, again, in a way, that is true. In only a few thousand years we have developed the skills to look through microscopes and see microscopic cells floating around in media we made ourselves,... Read more

Microscopic fungal parasites reveal host’s behavior

Posted 14 November 2012 by Danny Haelewaters

Mycologists have long debated about which organisms should be or should be not counted as fungi. The Kingdom Fungi includes a lot of biodiversity; an estimate of 5.1 million species has been suggested [1], comprising all sorts of things - molds, the well-known mushrooms, plant and insect parasites, polypores, and some important model organisms such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. To date, however, most fungi remain unknown and uncharacterized. The Laboulbeniales are perhaps (probably!) the most intriguing and yet the least studied... Read more

Sea turtles under pressure

Posted 30 October 2012 by Danny Haelewaters

Costa Rica - It has been named the promised land of biodiversity, Mother of Ecotourism, and it also harbors one of the most important nesting sites for sea turtles. Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles nest regularly on Costa Rica’s beaches. How spectacular and breathtaking is it to see a sea turtle crawl up onto the beach and nest? A highlight for sure for those chasing fascinating nature experiences, but be careful: these last members of prehistorical animal... Read more

Exserohilum rostratum, the killing fungus

Posted 24 October 2012 by Danny Haelewaters

There are hundreds of topics I could write about. The hardest part about writing is choosing a suitable topic and sticking with it until the end. This time, however, it was a little easier than normally due to the interesting nature of Exserohilum rostratum. Ever heard of it? It’s a fungus that seems to cause fatal meningitis, right now. Wait, right now?! Let’s find out what is going on. It’s been a while since Charles Frank Drechsler (1923) described the... Read more