Disco (clam) isn’t dead: how silica nanospheres create flashing glam clams
with Lindsey Dougherty
Wednesday October 7, 2015 at 7:00 PM
Restaurant Valparaiso, 1403 Solano Ave., AlbanyThis cafe is an informal forum for discussing interesting and relevant scientific issues. The goal is to encourage public engagement with science by inviting members of the scientific community to present topics for a casual evening of conversation. Cafes may vary in length and format depending upon the speaker and the topic. Audience questions are encouraged both during and after!
When people think of clams, their minds often go to chowder (possibly accompanied by Pavlovian salivation). “Disco clams”, however, aren’t your average bivalves. These Indo-Pacific creatures are contrasted from their dull-gray, mud-living, soup-making brethren by their bright red tentacles, coral reef homes, and a vivid electric-looking flash that goes back and forth across their mantle. Originally thought to be bioluminescence, the broadband flashing is actually the result of reflection from silica nanospheres that are ideally tuned for the light wavelengths that dominate their environment. The purpose of this flashy display is still unknown. We’ll explore whether the flashing attracts a mate, scares away predators, or lures in prey. Or, perhaps, if the clam is just keepin’ the beat.
Lindsey Dougherty is a PhD candidate in the Caldwell lab at UC Berkeley. Growing up in land-locked Colorado, her childhood aspirations naturally centered around SCUBA diving. With a goal of someday owning a dive shop, she studied business at CU Boulder, and was soon offered her first post-collegiate job… as a toner salesman. Desperate to move to the coast, she accepted, and made >2x what she does as a grad student. Teaching honeymooners how to SCUBA dive in Zanzibar made her realize that research was a better excuse to dive than commercial ventures, so after her MBA she got a second bachelor’s in biology and studied artificial coral reef systems in Indonesia, where she met and fell in love with the “disco” clam.