Did you know that spores and pollen are the most abundant fossils found in the Cretaceous rocks that cover much of Alberta? Just as living plants do today, plants of the past reproduced using spores and pollen. Our former Curator of Palynology, Dr. Dennis Braman, has identified over 1000 different types of pollen and spores from Late Cretaceous Alberta.
Due to their small size, it is difficult to relay information about fossil pollen to Museum visitors. Five-thousand fossil pollen can fit on the head of a pin, making it necessary to study and photograph them under a microscope. Although accurate, photographs are often difficult to interpret, and may not fully convey the complexity of fossil pollen to the public. Our solution was to create three-dimensional models made of blown glass.
Using photographs of fossil pollen and spores from Dr. Braman’s research, Julia Reimer and Tyler Rock of Firebrand Glass Studio developed concept drawings of what fossil pollen would look like when rendered in glass. Dr. Braman then reviewed the drawings for scientific accuracy. These concept drawings helped clarify the shape of different fossil pollen, and illustrated how to transition from two-dimensional photographs to three-dimensional models.
These glass models are about 4600 times the size of the real fossil pollen. The pollen we selected were based on the ability to accurately model them in glass. The limits of glassblowing means that these models are not exact replicas of the fossils, and are not intended for scientific research. As artistic replicas, their purpose is to educate the public about microfossils that are too small to see with the naked eye.
These glass models are currently on display in Fossils in Focus. In October 2018, they will be removed to make way for new specimens.