Dancing Star Foundation Research Fellow, Dr. Tarun Chhabra, with Colleagues, Discovers Three New Flower Species in Southern India


My tryst with wild balsams began in the late 1990s when a young botanist took me to the western Upper Nilgiris to view the flowering spectacle that unfolds in September. I was fascinated by the shape and colors of these balsams (the genus Impatiens) and the fact that many were endemic to just a few hillsides and were seen nowhere else on planet earth. As I learned more about these plants, I also realized that very little had been documented about many of these species since their Types were collected by the British many decades earlier.

Later, we began to carry out annual botanical expeditions into the western edges of the Nilgiris plateau. In 2006, we were honored to have with us Dr. Michael Tobias, the President of DSF, on a three-day trip. On that hike, he also saw an unidentified balsam that would later be described as a new species – Impatiens taihmushkulni, since it was found growing on the slopes of Mount Taihmushkuln, from where the Toda (the indigenous people of the Upper Nilgiris) God Aihhn rules the afterworld, Amunawdr.

On another journey, we saw a balsam that identified with Impatiens lawsoni. Further studies established that it was actually distinct and went on to be described as Imaptiens kawttyana, after the Toda deity who is believed to reside in the hill Kawtty.

A third balsam looked like Impatiens nilgirica, but we soon realized that it had several distinct morphological characteristics. Even the microscopic analysis of its minute seeds revealed it to be unique. This was named Impatiens nilgirica var. nawttyana after the Toda epithet for the genus Impatiens, viz. nawtty. All three new balsams were recently described in the Nordic Journal of Botany (Dec. 2016) by Tarun Chhabra and Ramneek Singh, a former practicing dentist, and the latter a tea planter by profession. Both are the founding trustees of the Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge (EBR) that is striving to restore degraded habitats in the Nilgiris, along with several other Toda-related activities.

Friends who would like to contribute towards these activities could do so via the Dancing Star Foundation. Tarun is also the author of The Toda Landscape – Explorations in Cultural Ecology (2015 Harvard University Press, Harvard Oriental Series, volume 79).

By Dr. Tarun Chhabra

“bioreverie” – The Release of a New Documentary


In the Winter and Spring of 2016, 80 people wandered throughout the 83-acre Lake Laurel Outdoor Environmental Research Lab in Milledgevile, Georgia.

The resulting 50-minute film, “bioreverie,” is an insider’s glimpse of their metaphysical encounters, artistic and philosophical epiphanies, and candid contemplations. It also yields a stirring window on the reality of just how precious is a protected small lake and piece of surrounding turf in Central Georgia. And, by obvious implication, recognizes that every inch of this planet of life should impress upon us all the profound needs of human humility, the sense of ecological citizenry, and the realization of the urgent call upon the duties and responsibilities such citizenry entails, particularly in this generation.

The film was created by an entire class of documentary film students, under the tutelage of their film school mentor, GCSU Faculty Member, Ms. Angela Criscoe, at Georgia College and State University, in collaboration with Dr. Michael Charles Tobias, President of Dancing Star Foundation. The work-in-progress was screened for EarthDay, 2016 at GCSU.

The finished “bioreverie” has just been released on GCSU’s Youtube site, and is herewith presented, uncut, in its entirety.

Writes Michael Tobias, “We often compare and contrast many of the great biological locations, and charismatic megafauna and flora across the Earth with the myriad of wonders in our own backyards. Too often, such comparisons gloss over, miss, or entirely obfuscate the quientessential realities of the biological miniature, and with it the remarkable proliferation that is at the heart of the so-called zoological gaze, as well as the Other Minds paradigm. So it is rare, indeed, to experience a 50-minute film, created by university students intent upon expressing their thoughts and feelings about nature; a film that actually takes the time to explore that backyard, particularly through the eyes, the hearts and minds of so many dozens of involved participants. The film, ‘bioreverie,’ should remind us all of the miraculous truths and insights inherent to participatory environmentalism, conservation team-work, eco-restoration, the importance of protected areas, and the joys and significance of simply walking in the woods and appreciating this gift of life we have been granted. ‘bioreverie’ modestly celebrates that gift, revealing a generous diversity of perspectives, feelings and compassion, by students, professors and other members of the public, alike. And it underscores the critical importance of environmental education in an era that has come to recognize a serious crisis throughout much of the world’s urban landscapes, namely, ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder.’”

Watch the film at:


“Make Natural History and Biological Diversity Documentation ‘Great Again'”

Dr. Melanie DeVore at the biological hotspots of Broxton Rocks, Southern Georgia. Photo (C) M. C. Tobias
Dr. Melanie DeVore at the biological hotspots of Broxton Rocks, Southern Georgia. Photo (C) M. C. Tobias

“Make Natural History and Biological Diversity Documentation ‘Great Again’”
By Dr. Melanie DeVore Read More “Make Natural History and Biological Diversity Documentation ‘Great Again’”

Poems by Thanasis Maskaleris

(Thanasis in Greece)

On this barren slope, incessantly besieged by winds,
I used to race the bouncing tumbleweeds, down to the pebbled shore.
Or, lying at the water’s edge, I would wait for them to descend
and then, with a soccer-trained kick, I would send them into the sea,
toward new, wave-tossed journeys… Read More Poems by Thanasis Maskaleris


Geoffrey Holland
Geoffrey Holland; photographer, filmmaker, author.

By Geoffrey Holland

Over the years, I have tried to be a student of good planetary stewardship. The ultimate prize is a humanity that functions in harmony with nature. This is what comes when what we take from the biosphere balances out with what we give back to it. Read More “LIVING IN HARMONY WITH NATURE”