Using laser scattering to identify diatoms and conduct aggregation experiments Academic Article uri icon


  • Laser in situ scattering and transmissometry (LISST) instruments are used to measure particle size distributions (PSDs) and volume concentrations in water. For populations of regularly shaped non-spherical particles, such as phytoplankton, the PSD produces a 'scattering signature' that corresponds to the shape of the particles. The objectives of this research were to describe the scattering signatures of six diatom species and to determine whether LISST instruments can be used as a tool to measure the aggregation of diatoms into larger particles. The scattering signatures of Chaetoceros muelleri var. subsalsum, Coscinodiscus wailesii, Thalassiosira weissflogii, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Skeletonema costatum and S. marinoi were measured. The scattering signatures of individual species were consistent over time in batch culture and there were clear differences between species in terms of peak location, peak width, and relative peak height in the PSD. LISST was used to non-destructively follow the formation of diatom aggregates in the laboratory. Both rolling and warming cultures of S. costatum caused the cell chains to form aggregates, resulting in a change in the PSD, with a shift in peak position towards larger size bins. These experiments showed that the scattering signatures of unaggregated diatom species are conservative and that LISST instruments are useful tools to investigate the factors affecting diatom aggregation and disaggregation, with potential applications both in the laboratory and field. 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Rzadkowolski, C. E., & Thornton, D.

citation count

  • 7

complete list of authors

  • Rzadkowolski, Charles E||Thornton, Daniel CO

publication date

  • January 2012