Pollen dating palynology
It is 70 years since a Danish professor, Knud Jessen, famously brought his bog-drill to Ireland to demonstrate the scientific potential of ancient pollen grains trapped deep in the peat.Fresh out of college, the great naturalist Frank Mitchell became his courier and collaborator.In general the spores of bacteria, fungi, algae and protists are rarely preserved but those of terrestrial plants are very common fossils.Terrestrial plants produce extremely resistent spores and pollen which are easily transported by wind and water.Michael O'Connell in Connemara and Pete Coxon in Kerry found the same thing.
Tephra-dating helped Valerie Hall to revise the whole picture of Ulster's supposed woodland wealth and its rapid destruction 400 years ago.
Observations of pollen by Grew and Malpighi are recorded from shortly after the invention of the microscope in the mid 17th Century.
One of the very earliest practical applications of preserved pollen in the reconstruction of changing environments was by the Swedish palynologist Von Post in 1917.
Michael O'Connell and Karen Molloy, of NUI Galway's palaeo-environmental research unit, have worked on a long core they extracted from the bed of a deep lake on Inishere.
Its 11,000-year pollen story has shown an island once covered with trees - oak, pine, elm, hazel, alder, birch and willow; then, later, the yew that became so prominent in the secondary woods of the west.
Pollen grains are microscopic in size, but their outer cases are tough.