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QS/ENV 672 (Pollen Analysis)

QS/ENV 672 (Pollen Analysis)

Course Description

Pollen analysis, or more appropriatedly, Palynology, is a branch of science concerned with the study of pollen of seed plants, and spores of other embryophytic plants, whether living or fossil, including their dispersal and applications in stratigraphy and paleoecology (as defined in the Glossary of Geology). As such, pollen analysis has its roots in both botany and geology. The analysis of fossil and subfossil pollen grains from stratigraphic deposits has become an extremely important tool in our quest to understand the history of plant communities, as well as the past history of climate (paleopalynology). Useful applications for pollen analysis have also been determined for biostratigraphic correlation in the petroleum industry (also paleopalynology), for reconstruction of environments and life strategies of ancient humans (archaeological palynology), and for subjects such as allergy control, quality control of honey, and forensics (neopalynology).

In this course, we examine all aspects of pollen analysis, with a particular emphasis on the utility of pollen in studies of past vegetation and climate reconstructions. Pollen analysis has played a pivitol role in the global warming and global change debates. Few biological proxy indicators have provided the fossil evidence in such quantities, and with such detail, as has fossil pollen. Literally billions, probably trillions, of pollen grains are produced annually, many of which end up in stratigraphic deposits, allowing for detailed analysis of past conditions as analogs for future conditions.

In lecture we explore the characteristics of pollen, and how it is produced, dispersed, sedimented, extracted, and analyzed. We also examine some of the fossil records of importance in the Southwest, as well as special studies, such as archaeological palynology, pollen in middens, and pollination ecology. In laboratory, we begin with pollen morphological studies, look at how we handle pollen assemblages in laboratory studies, and end with a semester project of the student's choice.