My Experiments with Truth - A Story of Another Gandhi from India, and his glass houses

My Experiments with Truth - A Story of Another Gandhi from India, and his glass houses

25.09.2019, Wednesday
ATREE Auditorium


Understanding of the biodiversity is minimal in many tropical regions such as populous country like India. Most of the biodiversity explorations in India are biased towards “charismatic” flora and fauna and information on “so-called” lower taxa are limited. The smaller groups, especially the microscopic organisms go unnoticed, and even the basic information is lacking. Diatoms are one such group of lower plants, commonly known as “glass houses” because of their intricate silica cell walls. They offer an exceptional ecosystem service by producing ~25% of global oxygen production, but the details on diatom biology and is rather meagre.

In this talk, I narrate my story of exploring diatom taxonomy and ecology of the Western Ghats. This has lead to a meeting an exceptional personality, H.P Gandhi, who hails from then Bombay Presidency. Gandhi described around 300 new taxa of freshwater and fossil diatoms from India and documented diatom taxonomy and ecology for the first time from this region. The part of the talk explores the story of finding Gandhi and recovering his collections and archiving it for future works. Further, I also highlight some of his significant findings and his opinion about the Indian science fraternity. Finally, I conclude the talk with my scrimmages of being taxonomist and an ecologist.


Karthick Balasubramanian is a Scientist at the Biodiversity and Palaeobiology Group, Agharkar Research Institute, Pune. He studied the community structure of streams of the Western Ghats for his Ph.D. He later in 2010 he joined Natural History Museum of the University of Colorado at Boulder for his postdoctoral research where he studied the taxonomy of endemic diatoms of the Indian subcontinent. In 2013 he joined the North-West University, South Africa to work on the endemic diatoms of Southern Africa. His laboratory is currently studying the diversity and distribution of diatoms across the Indian subcontinent and application of this information in the monitoring of water quality, paleoenvironment reconstruction, and environmental education. He had discovered more than 30 new species and two new genera of diatoms from Africa, America, and Asia. He is also involved with environmental educational activities using diatoms as an educational tool. He writes science communication in Tamil with focus on biodiversity research.