Swimming fireflies


What? Glowing water? In late September and early October, citizens of Ventura- including students from VHS- have noticed the unusual glow of the water along the coast.

This glow occurred when there was any movement among the water and was mostly visible while it was still dark outside.

The “glow” that people are seeing is bioluminescent plankton. According to “leisurepro,” plankton can produce light through chemical reactions taking place within their bodies, known as Bioluminescence.

Grajeda explained, “Every little movement I took, the water would glow bright green neon” Photo by: Summer Yovanno

Since any movement of the water created a visible glow due to the plankton’s chemical reactions, fish were visible underwater, the waves were luminous when crashing, and anything that touched or was thrown into the water emitted a glow.

Junior Jake Grajeda shared his experience with the bioluminescent plankton: “One night [the water] was super bright neon, just glowing down the beach and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘there is nothing stopping [me] from going into the water’. I went into the water… [I’ve] never [felt] so relieved of everything and so happy… [I] felt like a five year-old kid playing and splashing in the bioluminescent water.”

Junior Claire Ortiz shared her experience as well: “Jenna Peterson, Ava Hall, and I went swimming in [the ocean] … we were all so happy and had an amazing experience and were very fascinated by [the bioluminescent plankton]!”

However, plankton aren’t the only organisms that can produce light energy within their body. Fireflies, jellyfish, squid, and many more organisms have the same ability.

When asked about the fondness of the glowing water, sophomore Senna Togneri responded, “It was super sick, I had never seen anything like it… I don’t even know how it happens but I wish I could see it again.”

According to scripps.ucsd, the function of the bioluminescence is to find or attract prey, defend against predators, and to communicate.

In some cases, bioluminescent plankton are pets. Usually they are kept in a glass container, so when it’s dark they can act as a light.

During the same time, the coast of Ventura was experiencing a red tide. A red tide is a common name for a phenomenon known as an algal bloom -a rapid increase in algae population- causing the bloom takes on a red or brown color.

According to marine biologist, Jorge Ribas, the glowing of the plankton is caused by a massive red tide. Since the plankton are usually autotrophic, like algae, they are normally found in red tides.

It’s found that these red tides can last for up to months, but can also change daily due to wind conditions.