Palynology Laboratory

Massey operates a world-class palynology laboratory, studying and analyzing pollen samples.

Palynology is the science of pollen. It is an inter-disciplinary science, bringing together geography, earth science, plant biology and ecology.

Because each plant species produces a distinctive type of pollen, pollen grains contained within ancient sediments, airborne dust, and even the honey you have on your toast for breakfast can be traced back to the plants that produced it.

Our staff

The palynology laboratory is headed by Dr Katherine Holt.

Dr Katherine Holt

PhD, BSc
Senior Lecturer

I am the leader for the undergraduate Geography teaching programme here at Massey, and the Laboratory Manager for our Palynology lab. My research interests focus on pollen analysis (palynology) and reconstructing past environments. I have 12 years’ experience working with pollen, and I now provide commercial pollen analysis services, including analysis of honey samples.


Pollen processing and extraction from sediments

We provide processing and extraction services from a range of sample types including:

  • sediments
  • honey
  • plant and animal samples.

We can also provide pollen identification, counting and pollen concentration services.

Contact us to discuss your requirements

Research projects

Automated palynology systems

Pollen analysis requires countless hours looking down a microscope, identifying and tallying pollen types. This is a major limiting factor in pollen-analysis efficiency.

Our solution is the Classifynder – a system combining robotics, image processing and neural network technology to count and classify pollen grains. The Classifynder has the potential to revolutionise palynology by providing faster, more consistent, repeatable pollen counts.

The machine is the first of its kind and was developed as a joint project between Massey’s School of Engineering and Advanced Technology and the School of Agriculture and Environment.

Prototype machines are now in use around the world. The CSIRO is using it to identify how insects and invertebrates function as pollinators. In biosecurity it can identify the countries of origin of many products, notably honey. For allergy sufferers, it can provide air-borne pollen counts and source species.

We use the Classifynder to perform commercial honey pollen analysis, as well as measurement of colour (mm Pfund), conductivity, and sugar content (Brix).

Quaternary pollen analysis

By extracting ancient pollen preserved in sediments we can reconstruct past vegetation composition and how it was changed by natural or anthropogenic impacts.

Airborne pollen sampling and analysis

We analyse airborne pollen grains to indicate which plants are flowering. This provides the basis for pollen forecasts for hay fever and allergy sufferers.

The Burkard airborne pollen sampler is used for daily pollen monitoring and assessing the impact of climate change on flowering times.

Floral analysis of honey

We can study the pollen content of honey to determine its floral origins. This is important in New Zealand, where there are restrictions on honey imports and where some honeys command a premium price.

Contact us

Dr Katherine Holt

PhD, BSc
Senior Lecturer
School of Agriculture and Environment
College of Sciences