Aquatic Science Applications

Diversity and dynamics of the plankton world

These are the two major challenges in aquatic research focused on plankton. In collaboration with aquatic scientists worldwide we have developed flow cytometry that analyses particles in situ in the widest range of sizes, shapes, optical properties, mechanical properties and concentrations. This adventure began in 1986 and continues today with steadily growing network of aquatic specialists. 

If you need to

CytoSense solution

  • analyse plankton
  • analysed particle size range: from 100 nm to 0.7 mm (width) and 4 mm (length)
  • perform measurements in a wide range of plankton concentrations
  • particle amounts range: from 10^3 to 10^11 particles per liter
  • capture sudden changes in plankton characteristics
  • a new measurement starts every few minutes, assuring high-frequency monitoring
  • keep fragile organisms, colonies and filaments intact 
  • gentle sampling maintains integrity of delicate particles
  • study untreated water  
  • portability of the CytoSense enables its use directly at the location, the CytoSub version performs the measurements under water, literally in situ

Explore the examples of how the CytoSense flow cytometers serve this community and... join us!  

  • Microscopy-based vs flow cytometry-based phytoplankton assessment 

Haraguchi et al. (2017) showed a good correlation of micro- and nanophytoplankton counts between traditional microscopy and the CytoSense. The flow cytometer enabled moreover analysis of picophytoplankton cells (< 5 um) which pose a challenge for microscopic assay. The authors demonstrated also that individual cell volumes is precisely estimated by the CytoSense, which in turn allows for fast estimates of the plankton particle biomass spectrum across the entire size range.​

  • Effects of human activity on phytoplankton community

Analysis of phytoplankton particle scans measured with the CytoSense revealed that micropollutants present in common pharmaceuticals and personal care products reduce phenotypic diversity and increase cell densities and biomass of phytoplankton. Results published in Pomati et al. (2017)


  • Seasonal plankton community dynamics

Succession of 8 phytoplankton groups, including Synechococcus spp., Phaeocysits globosa, Coccolitophores and Cryptophytes, was studied over winter-spring-summer period with a CytoSense installed on a ship board. Based on the acquired flow cytometric data Bonato et al. 2016 found that nutrients and daily light intensity play the most important role in shaping the seasonal transitions. 

  • Phytoplankton dynamics monitoring and early warning system

The CytoSense on the river Meuse runs since 2013. The river provides drinking water and the hourly flow cytometric analysis poses part of the early warning system for water quality. Click here to see the results real-time. The project is led by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, in close collaboration with CytoBuoy and Thomas Rutten Projects

  • Influence of grazing on phytoplankton communities

Phytoplankton particle scans acquired with a CytoSense allowed Pomati et al. (2013) to derive characteristics related to size and morphology of phytoplankters. The researchers observed that these are the traits which are under the strongest selection from grazing.  In the study by Berkvist et al. (2012), the scans of Skeletonema marinoi acquired with a CytoSense, showed that this diatom regulates the length of its chain in the presence of grazing copepods.