10 brief facts on bioluminescence

We all get excited thinking about bioluminescence in nature. Ironically, that excitement is only one of the reasons animals glow like an elf in Middle Earth. Here are some ‘basics on bioluminescence’ you can share with your friends and family the next time you all ogle a firefly and wonder ‘why?’.

What is red tide?

a red tide

a red tide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About six years ago I went to a wedding on the Gulf of Mexico which was extraordinary except for the occurrence of red tide. Don’t get me wrong, the guests and bride and groom all had a fabulous time despite the red tide. How did it affect us? We were not permitted to swim in the ocean and made the best out of it by playing run the bases on the beach. We could only do this for a little while since it actually affected our breathing and so we took a lot of breaks for margaritas.

It got me wondering what is a red tide? From my research it seems that red tides are not always red and have nothing to do with tides. Scientists are trying to wash away the term red tide and use the term harmful algae bloom (HAB) which explains a bit better about what happens during these occurrences. During a HAB on the Gulf of Mexico there is a high concentration of microscopic marine algae known as Karenia brevis. This is not the only algal culprit to an HAB, but, it is the most frequent. In the Gulf of Mexico the algae Alexandrium fundyense has been known to cause serious damage to local fisheries. In low concentrations these algae is not harmful. But, with high concentrations fish suffocate after it paralyzes their central nervous system. Also, many shellfish that filter water can accumulate the toxins and become inedible to eat.

How harmful algal blooms occur is still under debate. It can be a natural or man-made occurrence.

Do you have another great question? Email info@beachchairscientist.com and let me know what you always ponder while digging your toes in the sand!

A Few Lines from Rehoboth Beach by Fleda Brown

Dear friend, you were right: the smell of fish and foam
and algae makes one green smell together. It clears
my head. It empties me enough to fit down in my own

skin for a while, singleminded as a surfer. The first
day here, there was nobody, from one distance
to the other. Rain rose from the waves like steam,

dark lifted off the dark. All I could think of
were hymns, all I knew the words to: the oldest
motions tuning up in me. There was a horseshoe crab

shell, a translucent egg sack, a log of a tired jetty,
and another, and another. I walked miles, holding
my suffering deeply and courteously, as if I were holding

a package for somebody else who would come back
like sunlight. In the morning, the boardwalk opened
wide and white with sun, gulls on one leg in the slicks.

Cold waves, cold air, and people out in heavy coats,
arm in arm along the sheen of waves. A single boy
in shorts rode his skimboard out thigh-high, making

intricate moves across the March ice-water. I thought
he must be painfully cold, but, I hear you say, he had
all the world emptied, to practice his smooth stand.

Read more about this author here.