Category Archives: Nature

Bioluminescence, Art, and Exploration

There are some really cool videos and art projects out there relating to bioluminescence.

Here are a few that I want to share:

This first video isn’t technically bioluminescence, but the artists did an incredible job projection mapping on things living in the forest. It’s high quality, and magical.

Projections in the Forest from 3hund on Vimeo.
Behind the scenes:

The projection mapping “bioluminescent forest” is made by artists Friedrich van Schoor and Tarek Mawad.

The artists spent six weeks in the forest fascinated by the silence and natural occurrences in nature, especially the phenomenon “bioluminescence”. They personified the forest to accentuate the natural beauty by creating luring luminescent plants and glowing magical mushrooms that speaks volumes to any visitor that enters the minds of the artists through viewing “bioluminescent forest”.



This video kicks ass at capturing some bioluminescent plankton washing up on shore. This happens in multiple places across the world including California, Costa Rica, and Japan.

Bioluminescence from Alex Hill on Vimeo.

One of the coolest things on earth! And yes, I know it isn’t exactly clean to play in, but it was too fun an opportunity to pass up. Like a child playing in mud!

Also, super hard to catch in a video format. Settings f1.4, 1/25th and ISO 16000! So you’ll forgive the graininess I hope!


This video also captures some oceanic plankton bioluminescence, but this time from on board a cruise ship!

Bioluminescence from Jean-Philippe Angers on Vimeo.

On the evening of November 7th 2012 the Sea Princess was sailing towards Melbourne. At around 10pm a rare phenomenon occurred in the sea bellow called BIOLUMINESCENCE.


These photographers captured multiple time-lapses of different glowing creatures in a forest.

Living Lights from Juergen Freund Visuals on Vimeo.

When have you entered a tropical rainforest at night and be lucky enough to walk into an enchanting sight of ethereal green glowing in the dark? Have you ever chased fireflies when they suddenly appear out of nowhere in a forest? Here are two glorious subjects that delight us and they can only be seen in the dark of night when no human lights distract us from their natural wonder. They are glowing fungi and fireflies that come out in the hot humid summers in the forests of Tropical North Queensland and the coast of Camarines Sur in the Philippines.

The light you see is called bioluminescence. It is one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing miracles of nature. Scientifically, it certainly is not a miracle. The light that living creatures emit is caused by a chemical reaction that involves the light-emitting pigment luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. Bioluminescence is not a very strong light, but it’s easy to pick up if you turn your flashlight off regularly to get your eyes used to the dark.

Time-lapse sequences and video taken from various locations in Tropical North Queensland – Australia and Camarines Sur – Philippines.


Last but not least are two TED Talks given by Edith Widder. She is an oceanographer and inventor who first captured video of a living giant squid AND of marine bioluminescence back in the day. You go girl!


Why do animals glow?!

I’ll get to the point: animals and fungi glow because they like to rave throughout the night.


The truth is, organisms glow for many reasons (raving being one of them).

Some animals glow as a form of counter-illumination.

The firefly squid is one example of this. If a predator is swimming below the animal and looking up at it, it actually makes a dark background against the surface. When the squid’s belly is being lit up, it can actually blend itself into its surrounds a little bit better.

In animals, the light is produced in photophores, which is basically an organ whose job is just to produce photons. The COOL thing with this is that some animals, instead of producing the photons themselves, will sometimes house a bacteria (Allivibrio fischeri) in this organ in a symbiotic relationship (=BFFs). In this case, it’s the bacteria IN the organs IN the biggest that are actually emitting light.

anglerfish with bioluminescent bulb hanging from forehead

For example, take this anglerfish…Yes, it’s also the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. I bet rotting livers on dead people are more attractive. But the anglerfish DGAFs whether or not its body is attractive or ugly…because it’s that danging light blob that does the actually attracting. (Even more precise: it’s the bioluminescent bacteria living inside the wispy  organ.)

Lil’ fishes get curious when they see a light floating around in the ocean…and they go explore…and then they get eaten up by the ugly-but-efficient anglerfish. Work smart, not hard, says the wisdom of the anglerfish totem.

Love… Ahhhh. The reason for being alive and the culprit for a lot of our problems. We try to hard putting ourselves out there and also trying to play it cool. Wouldn’t it be badass just to have your eyeballs light up whenever you found someone attractive? There’d be no need to be so vulnerable.

cat with glowing eyes
Yep, that’s tots bioluminescence.

Another reason why bioluminescence occurs is to attract a mate. This is one of the more commons reasons why animals (and fungi) barf out photons from various parts of their bodies.

bioluminescent barfing fish

Okay…NOT literally. I actually have no idea what’s happening to that fish. Maybe it thought a glowstick was some Pop Rocks.

What I was referring to was insects like fireflies. Different species of fireflies light up in different patterns, just like morse code. This helps communicate to the ladies: “Hey babe, look how hawt I am, come on over!”



bioluminescent firefly up close micro
oh hai  (0_0)


There are many more animals that are bioluminescent for the same basic reasons: to attract mates or defend against predators.

Glow worms in cave
bioluminscent jellyfish in ocean
Comb Jelly
Bioluminescent millipede


glowworm closeup


Bioluminscent plankton in ocean

bioluminescent insect gif

bioluminescent plankton in waves along shore






Starry Forest Floor: A journey with glowing mushrooms

In 2012, I had the most wonderful opportunity to live on a tiny tropical island in Pacific Ocean near the Philippines. Although I could tell you a thousand things that happened, there was one night that stands out in my mind in a surprising way.

I was with three friends and we decided to take a night hike. This trail was extremely rugged; it definitely brought out my adventurous side. We were undeniably in jungle land: vines strong enough to swing from, enormous limestone rock formations, terrifying-looking but truthfully-harmless insects, singing birds, the love/hate relationship with constant humidity, and dense vegetation.

About halfway along the trail, we got to a clearing. It wasn’t necessarily a meadow, but trees went from being 3 feet apart to about 25 feet apart with very few bushes in between.

This new terrain made it extremely easy to see speckles of light kissing the forest floor all around me. I was an astronaut…but only it wasn’t the moon’s light getting past the tree canopy that gave the illusion I was in space.

The light was tinted bluish/green and came from hundreds of bioluminescent mushrooms all around me.  I started to tear up at the sight. I’ve seen these mushrooms up close before this moment, yet it was a different experience to see the vastness they covered in the jungle rather than just innocently peaking out from behind a fallen log.

I’ve had a lot of experiences with nature, but this encounter blew them all away by far.

The lines between microcosm and macrocosm were blurred and all that I could do was surrender to the wonder of the universe.

(Image sources unknown)

The night I first saw bioluminescent mushrooms

Back in the day I was obsessed with StumbleUpon.

(In case you haven’t heard of this amazing website: you sign up, add all the topics you are interested in, and click “stumble” on the top of the page. This magical click shoots you across the interwebs one at a time to bring you to most amazingly random websites you could ever come across).

On one of this clicks, StumbleUpon revealed one of the greatest blogs I’ve ever seen. It was a post of organisms that glowed in the dark!

I recognized fireflies (who hasn’t) and some other insects, but there was one that was completely new to me: bioluminescent fungi.

Yes. Mushrooms (and/or mycelium for you fun-guys) that glow in the dark. These organisms have the ability to actually produce and release photons, little tiny pieces of light.

Now, this was also in my days of being fascinated with psychedelics, specifically mushrooms. (Side note: don’t eat bioluminescent mushrooms. It will not be fun! You will die.) Maybe this isn’t completely relevant, but it just made this new discovery THAT much more exciting.

psychedelic mushroom house in mystical landIt completely baffled me that mushrooms somehow evolved to light up in the dark. Someday, I promised myself, I will meet these in person.

Fast forward to 2012, I decided to study abroad on a teeny tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. While I was here, I had to find something in the ecosystem to do a research project on. Our professor took us all over the island to explore and learn more about all the plants and animals that lived here. The land was gorgeous, but nothing quite stuck out to me enough to study.

A month into program and days before I had to start my research, our professor took us to a giant BBQ party with locals that we had befriended so far. I was mingling with the crowd and overheard someone mention the word “glowing.” Well that sounds fun, I thought to myself and I detoured off my social wandering pattern and found a nearby chair.

She, a turtle biologist, was sharing the time she was at the beach and didn’t start walking back thru the forest to her car until later at night. On her path, she noticed something was lit up on the jungle floor. She told the story about how she first saw glowing mushrooms at the beach that we all frequently went to.


I got goosebumps. Truthbumps, as my friend says. Shivers as I was sitting in the tropics listening to her recollection.

This. Will. Be. My. Project.

…but wow! What a challenge to convince my professors over the next several days. I mean, they were stoked for me…but it always came down to “How are you supposed to research something that you’ve never seen?” Well…it’s possible in other fields, but not for an ecologist.

On multiple occasions, I actually got the help from my classmates and a few locals to go out searching for the elusive glowing mushrooms. They are glowing! How hard could it be to find them?! Apparently harder than I thought it would be. I felt so discouraged…and honestly a little embarrassed that I got SO excited at something so unlikely to actually happen.

That night driving home in the car I saw a mushroom-shaped cloud floating across the island. Confirmation bias? NO WAY! It was the mushroom gods telling me to keep going.

One of our friends who worked for the Department of Fish and Wildlife called me the next day and said that he wanted to take us to one more place that he thought would be a great location:

  • good rainfall = tells the fungi that it’s time to make mushrooms AKA baby-making time!
  • thick understory = captures humidity, cools tropical environment, and provides LOTS of organic matter for food (leaves, soil, logs etc.)


Off we went! This section of the jungle was THICK. The kind of path that asks for a machete if you have one.

It was humid and hot, just barely after sunset. We were all being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Bouncing headlamps lead my way down the path as several more were close behind me. I couldn’t tell how far we walked or where we were going. It was beautiful at nighttime, but also a little terrifying.

I heard someone scream my name, “COME HERE, NOW!” I turned around and headed back where I just came from. My classmate was kneeling down a few meters off the path at a tree trunk, sprinkled with glowing specks at the base.

bioluminescent fungi mycena chlorophos

At this moment I was overcome by deep stillness and silence. There are few things are have truly taken my breath away. This one tops them all. I slowly started to walk at the glowing mushroom garden in awe and reverence.

The best way I can describe this experience is like being outside alone and looking up a night sky. A night sky that looks darker than usual with brighter stars than a normal night.

On a superficial layer, I knew that I could research them now that I’ve found some in real life. But on a deeper level, I would be forever changed. Being in the presence of any sort of biological or artistic oddity is fun in the moment and even throughout the rest of the day. But these ephemeral moments don’t compare to seeing something that resonates so deep inside.

It’s this feeling, this experience that connects people with the natural world. It’s these types of experiences that deepen human adventure. And it’s for these reasons that I continue to travel and explore the world.

bioluminscent mushrooms in the dark


What is ‘Lit Life’?


I’m going to put energy into a new project called “Lit Life” It’s going to be a fun way for you to be mystified and entertained about bioluminescence–animals and fungus that GLOW IN THE FRIGGIN’ DARK.

Although this is getting fueled and inspired by a class project, it’s also a way for me to reflect back 5 years ago when I studied abroad and research glowing mushrooms. I’ve always felt like some story was left untold…


Bioluminescent fungi! Panelllus stipticus


So anywho, if you are interested, stick around over the next few weeks to learn about my experience researching bioluminescent fungi and to learn more about some of these cRaZy creatures:

bioluminscent jellyfish
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Jelly fish swim, Aug. 20, in a Alaska SeaLife Center aquarium. (U.S. Air Force photo/David Bedard)





Where to escape in a city:

“It’s not a city, it’s the suburbs,” says my narrow-minded, ignorant family member.

When I️ can only make out the Big Dipper and Orion at night, when the streetlights keeping me up at night are brighter than the sun peaking over the morning horizon, when the buzz of traffic is constantly evident…I’m in a city.

It’s not your fault though…you don’t know what it’s like to live in a rustic cabin with no WiFi or to have to gather your own firewood and start a fire every night. You don’t know what the world looks like behind your 65-inch TV or your 4-inch iPhone and you certainly don’t know that “leisure” and “outdoors” can go together without an agenda.

The only other human at this artificial lake is a boy. Someone dropped him off just after I️ arrived so that he could fish. I️ think he is catching some, but I’m also hearing a handful jump out of the water in front of me.

Nature is refreshing, like a glass of ice-cold water for a red-hot angry mind.

Some people use the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” to unofficially describe the impacts of a lack of slow-paced quality outdoor time.

Irritability, fear, apathy, confusion, and anxiety make their way into my “normalness” when I️ skip the parks and forest hikes for mindless modern-day entertainment. It clouds around me like a swarm of stickiness. I️ think that it’s normal…but it’s not. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Sometimes it just takes a stop by the park to shift me back into a more satisfying way of being alive: patience, relaxation, and imagination.

Luckily I️ am just visiting this massive “suburb.” For getting an afternoon date with myself at the park here is like getting to eat a carrot or two after fasting all morning. I️ am malnourished being here, but luckily I️ know what I️ need to feel satiated.

The Wilderness Within (Final: Reflections)

Last weekend felt like a healing retreat. It catalyzed some deeper process that’s happening to me right now. Maybe this is the step from one phase of the lifecycle to another. Transitions sure feel like deaths. A part is dying, the part that was up to this point, “everything” to me. Does it hurt a snake or crustacean to shed its exterior? Does it hurt for a caterpillar to turn into organic soup before it re-forms back into a butterfly? This was briefly brought up in the lifecycle talk (I think). These psychological transformations we go through are complete paradigm shifts. “Molting” is changing, yes, but there isn’t any real change besides growing larger into whatever was there.

I feel like I’ve been molting quite often, mistaking that for true transformation. (For something to radically change forms?) Would it need its whole self for the true transformation process? All the pieces go into the pan and BAM, alchemy happens and something new pops out.


In the past and now still, I don’t accept all parts of myself. Even if they aren’t glamorized or accepted in our culture, Ecopsychology is helping me see that all pieces matter.

The Wilderness Within (Part 6: North)

I am cared for.
I care for you.
I care for all.

Not going to lie, North seems slightly boring compared to the rest of the directions of the psyche. Yet, it also seems like it’s so present in my life. North helps me out when I’m swinging upside down from a tree. North is trying to help me out through this current personal winter before Earth winter has yet to come.


In my notes I wrote:

Inner Critic –> meanest EVER, seriously so evil and smart

Later I wrote:

Thanks for looking out for me, inner self.

…and this was the “mean” inner self. It makes me feel whole to learn that even my fragmented parts still want me to be “whole.” Their view on the world is different though, which is why it’s so easy to judge them and think they are failures. The Loyal Soldiers really are incredible. They are serving my life in such an adorably immature way.

I don’t have much to reflect on about North here…I think I explored that (fragmented North) a lot in the October 2nd entry above.

The Wilderness Within (Part 5: West)

Oh, Wild West…
You leave me facing myself.
You terrify me!
You astound me!
You simply let me see my Self.

To be honest, I was extremely nervous for the West Walk…specifically the part about finding darkness and talking to it. I just had a feeling going into the night that it was going to power transformation in some way.

In a way, the West walk started before we even left when I made my rhythm instrument. I used to have a buffalo drum. I was so in love with playing it but was living out of my car last year and didn’t have space so it went to a friend. I didn’t have anything that I could think of at home. A few days before this, I had some things brought up to me from my parents’ house in Gilbert. Along with a bunch of warmer clothing, I also had a craft supplies box. As I was unpacking this care package from home, I noticed that I had a box of plastic jewels. These are the type of jewels that are flat on one side, jewel-y on the other, and sparkling like a mermaid’s tail. Bingo! They rattled so nicely in their little box. All I needed was a little tape to seal them in and I was all set. This little task ended up being me decorating the outside of the jewel box with multiple colors of tape. It may seem like a childish, pointless part of the process, but it actually was the first intentional step to the West Walk.

Fast forward to the start of the rhythm circle. I’ve always felt drawn to drumming. Back when I played soccer, sometimes we’d practice at a high school during the same time that the drum line was rehearsing. As I got older, I started listening to Hardstyle music (a sub-genre of techno) and felt drawn to the faster paced rhythmic 150 beats per minute found here.

Drumming with other people seems like one of the best ways to connect with someone else. Yet at the same time, we all tap into something new. The music becomes our connection point rather than playing directly with the people next to use. I actually tried to do this but it made me lose my rhythm. I very easily started to sink in and release. I used a hand drum and the jewel box rattle that I made intermittently, though sometimes at the same time.

While in the rhythm circle, I started to feel my body dissolving away. Everything still worked fine, but focus shifted from the physical to predominantly just awareness. My physical boundaries felt transient and subtler.

Before I knew it I was leaving. I never thought to leave; I was just standing up, turning around, and making my way up the hill to the path to carry on with my night. I played as I walked away from the circle, keeping up with the rhythm as long as I could hear. I walked south into the darkness. It was a welcoming, safe darkness though. My intention was to walk about 10-15 minutes down the path and then migrate up to a hill to get a better view of the night sky. This plan was quickly cut off though. A few minutes into my walk I noticed a cluster of younger ponderosas off the path. Basically…DARKNESS. I looked away and went back to searching for my perfect stargazing spot.


Nope. That wasn’t the overall goal of the night. I laughed at the irony and turned left towards Darkness to immediately be greeted with a perfect rock to sit on. The welcoming was too obvious. I sat down and introduced myself. It was a shallow conversation at first until I really sunk into the spot.

Darkness is always there to hear whatever I have to say or ask, and whatever I choose to withhold. I kept on imagining the terrible things that could happen to me: someone jumping out of the darkness and attacking me, something lashing out at my face…

I quickly became aware that I was the source of any harm that I perceived. I would non-visually hallucinate things jumping out at me. Sometimes my face flinched by the realness of it. I was left in a void. I projected insecurities and threats into that space. Is this the fragmented West making itself known?

My homework to myself is to be more curious and accepting of Darkness. On a day-to-day level, this is found when I walk past a dark room in my house at nighttime and consciously avoid looking in that area. When I notice I do that, I stand in place for a few breaths, slowly turn to face the dark room and look into it for a little bit, then I slowly turn back around and make my way to where I was originally going.

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Mark Twain

This quote speaks to me about the relationship between fragmented and whole West psyche. If my fragmented West is taking over, I see things trying to attack me (similar to what I was experiencing during the West walk). When my whole West is present, I see the truth and inner beauty through the lens of curiosity. It is an esoteric path that is terrifying and terrific, awful and awesome. Maybe not exactly these words…but the West shakes up my logic.





The Wilderness Within (Part 4: South)

Ahhh sweet, wild, primal South!
You make me feel,
or maybe just…because of you
I can truly feel.

My South walk consisted of me playing aerialist on the rope swing that was on the hill behind the cabin. I wanted to get a taste of the rope swing at some point, and it just perfectly worked out that it was this walk.


Is this swing even safe? Many people probably have used it before… Did a certified arborist check it out? Does the branch look sturdy? If I fall, will I hurt myself? What if I fall when I’m out THIS far…will I die if I land upside down?

Was this fragmented North trying to protect me? Or whole North? Aww, thanks, bud! I’m going to play anyway. I’m used to swinging on hanging things. I feel supported by my own physical strength and body awareness. But would the tree say the same?

I tested out the answer to all those questions by swinging on the swing. I started slow. I felt in my body. I felt the bounciness of the rope. I started picking up speed. I’d walk-jump to the other side. How does it feel? How do I feel? THIS FEELS LIKE I WANNA GO ALL OUT! Alrighty, South, hold on a sec. Let’s work our way up to that, said Whole North.

It wasn’t long before I became more comfortable in my body. I experimented with different types of twists while swinging from one side of the tree to the other. I could twist in either direction before landing (not on the same swing though…there were just options on how I wanted to get to the other side). Sometimes I’d jump so far away from the tree that I was able to lean backward and look at the world from upside down. This was the perfect chance for the inner dialogue to say “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?! DO YOU SEE THE GROUND UNDERNEATH YOU? DO YOU WANT YOUR HEAD TO LAND THERE?!?!?!” Dear Inner Critic, I DGAF at the moment and want to continue having fun. I loved swinging back and forth on there. Towards the end, I was able to do two spins before landing on the other side. Though, I did kindly/gently smash into the trunk of the tree during the experimentation phase.

It was a dance to be swinging back and forth on the tree. In a way, I felt like the tree and I were dancing together. At times there was even music! Yes, real music. Someone was playing the flute at the bottom of the hill. The wind carried most of the music to me and I acted it out in girl-on-rope-swing form.

I struggle with expressing all emotions and feelings (if they are even the same?). Ever since November 2015 (when my friend was in the hospital for a perceived suicide attempt), I have been trying to be conscious about being open and honest when people ask me about how I am doing. Most of the time “Good” is not a completely accurate way to describe the rich inner world and experience of life. Who wants to hear a novel when they might have just been asking a generic question? (Why should I care…)

South has taught or reminded me to be a raw, expressive self.