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Not to be sneezed at: how 3D printing is supersizing the tiny world of pollen

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December 07, 2020 at 06:30AM

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Project allows students, scientists and even fashion designers to create giant models of pollen grains from around the world

As a former secondary school science teacher, Oliver Wilson knows the challenges of communicating big, complex issues. Now, the palaeoecologist is reaching global audiences with a project that brings to life the microscopic world of pollen by producing giant 3D-printed models from high-quality scans of pollen grains.

“Being able to identify pollen is important for many reasons,” he says. Because they can survive millions of years and are tiny and tough, they can help track changing climate patterns, reveal the quality of honey and even provide forensic evidence at crime scenes. “But I love seeing what else people do with the models,” he says. Already they have been used by bee ecologists in Brazil, US school teachers and Irish archaeologists, among others.

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