Scientriffic is a science magazine aimed at primary school children produced by CSIRO’s Double Helix Science Club. The latest magazine features pollen and pollination, and getting up close and … taxonomic (identifying different species) with pollen using microscopes.

The Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) has purchased a light microscope and its associated hardware (AutoStage pollen recognition system) from the Massey University, in New Zealand. One of the tasks planned for the microscope is to examine pollen from all sorts of Australian plants and take high-powered images.

Other scientists from CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics (CMIS) are writing image analysis programs to search for certain characteristics of the pollen to tell it apart from other types of pollen. The plan for the program is to help the scientists sort out and classify more quickly the pollen from the many thousands of species of Australian plants. Why would we want to do this?

Powering up pollen research

To understand nature, we must know what species are out there. But identifying species takes a long time, and is pretty labour-intensive work. To speed up the research, scientists are developing technologies to identify species automatically.

Taken from: Pollen under the microscope, by Kate Barnard, Scientriffic, Issue 72, March 2011.

Read the full article (PDF 2MB)

The ALA online species factsheets will display the highly magnified pollen images together with the pictures of the plant species they came from. These images should prove a useful identification aid for scientists doing research with pollen, and for anyone with an interest in nature.