What’s that on Lake Mendota? If you’ve been on Lakeshore Path near the boathouse recently, you may have seen this yellow gunk on the water. Although it looks similar to cyanobacteria blooms, it’s not green. Instead, this yellow stuff is most likely pollen from nearby trees. Pollen is pretty cool – it even has its own field of study called palynology. The pollen that falls into a lake sinks to the bottom and gets buried in sediment. Scientists can take cores of the sediment and find out what types of pollen fell into the lake thousands of years ago. This is incredibly useful if you want to know what plants were present at that time, and can help answer questions about climate change or land use, among many other things.
Maybe in a couple thousand years, this pollen will be informing science about our current plant life!
Have you seen this pollen in other regions of the lake? Do you know what plants it came from? Let us know in the comments!