After five years of doctoral studies, PICRC researcher, Lincoln Rehm, returns to Palau to conclude long-term experimentation. Currently studying at Yale University, and on the verge of concluding his PhD studies, Lincoln will be in Palau for two weeks to collect data for his PhD thesis.

Lincoln Rehm’s research has two main components: 1) Studying the role that the nutrients in the water have in determining the color of mantle tissue in giant clams 2) Study the arrangement of iridocyte and algal cells in the mantle of giant clams. Previous research has shown that these iridocyte cells funnel light into the algae in the giant clam and help increase photosynthetic efficiency of the algae. “The larger goal is to understand how light interacts with the clam on a photon level,” stated Lincoln, “After conducting clam surveys throughout the archipelago of Palau, we discovered that there are three main colors of mantle tissue in the seven species found in the area: blue, green, and yellow. A combination of these three colors is what gives clams secondary colors, such as purple.”

The results of Lincoln’s research will serve as raw data for a larger project which aims to study the biophysics and optics of light within giant clams. Lincoln’s experiments are showing that clam cells are extremely efficient at harvesting light. Throughout the world, bioreactors are used to produce edible algae, specific types of oils, and even used to treat wastewater. By understanding light and animal interactions, scientists hope to create synthetic materials that mimic those properties found in giant clams, increasing the efficiency of bioreactors.