Toolbox update 6: Methods for studying pollen

Team Pteropus would like to share a few helpful tips and protocols on how to collect and study pollen. This isn’t just useful for budding botanists, plant ecologists or beekepers! It’s also relevant for wildlife ecologists who want to study the diet of animals that feed on flowers. It’s a good way to identify plant species in animal diet, as different types of plants have different, distinctive pollen shapes and sizes. In order to do this, you’ll need to start by collecting pollen samples directly from the flowers themselves, to build up your very own pollen reference library.

The pollen grains of the passion flower (Passiflora sp.) have a very distinctive 'tennis ball' shape
The pollen grains of the passion flower (Passiflora sp.) have a very distinctive ‘tennis ball’ shape

This latest Biologist’s Toolbox post comes to you all the way from San Jose courtesy of Esteban, who shares with us the pollen extraction protocol he was trained to use by his university. Although it’s also possible (and preferable) to use a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) for pollen studies, this can be complicated and expensive. This protocol provides you with a simple and easy-to-adapt method to be used with a normal light microscope, and which you can easily execute yourself.

According to Esteban: Continue reading

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