Marcel Polling


I was born a biologist... but raised a geologist. 

That is exactly what I realized following my bachelor in Earth Sciences (Utrecht University, NL). It is therefore that I started including more and more biology related courses in my programme and consequently opted for a master’s programme in Biogeology (also at Utrecht). In this programme, I used microscopic fossils (pollen and marine algae) from over 50 million year old rock samples to reconstruct the climate in this period. Considering that the climate during this period is sometimes called the ‘super greenhouse world’, studying it in detail can provide an interesting window into what might await us in the current changing climate. 

Looking for a new adventure and for ways to apply the skills I learned, I chose to start working as a biostratigrapher at a consultancy company in Wales, United Kingdom. Wales is a truly beautiful place in the world (just google Snowdonia) and with the great team of international people I had a great four years. After this period though, I started to miss the opportunity to really dive into a subject and make it my own. 

The Plant.ID network provides an excellent opportunity to apply my previous knowledge and learn innovative DNA methods. In my project, hay fever and software automated pollen recognition, I explore new ways of better identifying what is essentially all around us: pollen. Hay fever is an increasing problem and it has recently been estimated that 1 in 5 people suffer from its effects. The exact species composition of pollen present at any point in time however is still largely unknown. I will therefore use automatic image recognition to relieve the currently time-consuming task of the pollen specialist. DNA metabarcoding techniques will further aid in species recognition in groups of species that have highly similar pollen. Applying these techniques, new and better pollen predictions will be made possible.