Clisby and Sears Pollen Reference Collection

The Clisby and Sears Pollen Reference Collection consists of nearly 4000 microscope slides preserving examples of modern pollen grains extracted from plants to serve as a reference in identifying fossil pollen from the western U.S. There are also slides from the analysis of fossil sediments from Africa, modern pollen reference samples from sites in Central America, East Asia, and South America.

Kathryn H. Clisby and Paul B. Sears were pioneers in palynology in the 1950s with an interest in ecology and paleoecology. Paul Sears was an eminent plant ecologist and conservationist, whose archival papers are housed at the University of Arizona. Most relevant to the reference collection is ground-breaking research by Clisby and Sears on a long pollen core from the San Augustin playa, New Mexico. Their work coincided with that of Fred Wendorf, Professor of Anthropology at SMU, who shared an interest in Llano Estacado playa lakes and their associated archaeological remains.

The pollen slide reference collection came to SMU for Professor Wendorf’s care and was located in the Department of Anthropology’s palynology lab. When the Department of Anthropology lost its palynologist in 1984, Dr. Bonnie Jacobs took on the responsibility as the laboratory director under the auspices the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man. The Clisby and Sears slides and files became part of the Shuler Museum of Paleontology collections, and were transferred to the ARC by Dr. Jacobs in 2020.