VMNH has an excellent scanning electron microscope installed in the lab next door to my office. Jason Lunze, our SEM technician, is working on testing some aspects of the SEM software so I gave him some samples of Carmel Church sediment for test imaging. The Carmel Church units are known to have large numbers of diatoms, so we figured there would be plenty to see. (There are also going to be some folks working on Carmel Church diatoms this summer, so it was also a proof-of-concept exercise for that project).
In our tiny (a few square millimeters) sample we haven’t yet found any complete diatoms, but it only took Jason about 30 seconds to start finding fragments like the one at the top of the page. Below is another fragment (I think this one is magnified 6000 times):
It’s possible that these grains are modern contamination, but I think there’s a good chance they are fossil given the way they’re embedded in the sediment grains. It’s not surprising that the Calvert Formation at Carmel Church would have pollen; after all, fossil wood is about as common there as whale bones. But this is the first time we have any direct evidence of possible pollen grains.