The Museum’s fossil spore and pollen collections are particularly valuable for dating rocks, reconstructing past environments and studying climate change.
The spore and pollen microfossil specimens are divided into four discrete major collections:
Former British Petroleum microfossil collection
Contains the microfossil well-run samples from British Petroleum's exploration activities since the 1950s, including slides and residues from over 3,800 well and outcrop localities worldwide.
The collection includes:
- micropalaeontological slides
- palynological slides (c. 78,000)
- nannofossil slides
- faunal slides
- loose specimens
The John Williams Index of Palaeopalynology (JWIP)
JWIP is a card catalogue based around a central index of over 23,350 references. The index is particularly valuable for learning about specific palynological taxa, time periods or locations.
The catalogue is based around a central card index (‘JWIP References’), from which all references are cross-referenced into:
- palynomorph group (spores/pollen, dinoflagellate cysts and acritarchs, chitonozoans and miscellaneous)
- taxa (spores/pollen, dinoflagellate cysts, acritarchs and chitonozoans)
- geographical region (of which 17 are recognised)
- geological time period (of which there are 26 divisions)
Modern pollen and spore collection
Acquired in 2013, the modern pollen and spore collection consists of approximately 12,000 glass slides. Each slide contains labelled examples of pollen and/or spores from key extant (living) northwest European flora.
Much of the collection has been imaged using both traditional light microscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM) equipment. The collection therefore includes a vast library of printed images for many of the genera encountered
The palaeontological value of an extant collection lies in helping us to understand the prevailing environmental conditions of the last c. 2.58 Million Years (the Quaternary Period).
Pollen grains and spores are found in most sedimentary deposits and have been around since pre-Cambrian times, making them reliable dating tools. As many species require specific environmental conditions to survive, their presence in the fossil record can reveal changes in climate.
The Duxbury collection
The Duxbury collection contains dinoflagellate cysts from rocks formed during the Cretaceous period in the Isle of Wight. The collection consists of over 100 slides of Cretaceous dinoflagellate cysts, collected by Stanley Duxbury on the Isle of Wight.
The original slides have been reimaged using state of the art imaging techniques including Confocal Laser Scanning Microscopy (CLSM). All the figured specimens from this collection can be viewed online.
Looking for a specimen?
The palynology collection is being digitised
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If you would like to use any specimens for research
Catch up with the curator of micropalaeontology's blog
We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire by 2026. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected.
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