Background: The high costs of microscopical determination and counting of phytoplankton often limit sampling frequencies below an acceptable level for the monitoring of dynamic ecosystems. Although having a limited discrimination power, flow cytometry allows the analysis of large numbers of samples to a level that is sufficient for many basic monitoring jobs. For this purpose, flow cytometers should not be restricted to research laboratories. We report here on the development of an in situ flow cytometer for autonomous operation inside a small moored buoy or on other platforms.
Methods and results: Operational specifications served a wide range of applications in the aquatic field. Specific conditions had to be met with respect to the operation platform and autonomy. A small, battery-operated flow cytometer resulted, requiring no external sheath fluid supply. Because it was designed to operate in a buoy, we call it CytoBuoy. Sampling, analysis, and radio transmission of the data proceed automatically at user-defined intervals. A powerful feature is the acquisition and radio transmission of full detector pulse shapes of each particle. This provides valuable morphological information for particles larger than the 5-microm laser focus.
Conclusions: CytoBuoy allows on-line in situ particle analysis, estimation of phytoplankton biomass, and discrimination between different phytoplankton groups. This will increase the applicability of flow cytometry in the field of environmental monitoring.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.