Pollen grains are produced by seed bearing plants: angiosperms and gymnosperms. They are microgametophytes that contain the genetic material of male plants from the sporophyte generation. The pollen grains are encased in two layers; the extine is the outer later and is composed of sporopollenin, a complex polymer, and the inner layer called the intine. The walls of the pollen grain protect it from drying out and are able to resist chemical degradation so the pollen can successfully be transported to the stigma of female plants. Pollination can be mediated by animal pollinators which include bees, ants, butterflies, beetles, hummingbirds, and other small vertebrates; pollination can also be conducted by abiotic factors such as wind or water.
Pollen identification allows the reconstruction of past plant abundances from pollen fossils due to their resilience. In addition, identification of pollen on their animal pollinators could help ecologists determine the distribution and dispersal ability of the plant species. Furthermore, identifying pollen would be helpful to those with pollen allergies. Pollen can be indentified in labs by using safranin to dye the pollen, followed with microscopy.
The pollen lab in BIOL2010 was interesting but very tedious. It was very difficult to see the pores and furrows on the outer layer of the pollen grains under the microscope. It would often be hard to distinguish the features described on the guide, and identification would eventually devolve into a guessing game rather than a scientific method. The material on the pollen lab ended up not being on the lab exam, so in the end the whole thing felt somewhat useless. It ended up being memorable, however.