With the exponential development of algal aquaculture and blue biotechnology, there is a strong demand for simple, inexpensive, high-throughput, quantitative phenotyping assays to measure the biomass, growth and fertility of algae and other marine protists. Here, we validate nephelometry, a method that relies on measuring the scattering of light by particles in suspension, as a non-invasive tool to measure in real-time the biomass of aquatic micro-organisms, such as microalgae, filamentous algae, as well as non-photosynthetic protists. Nephelometry is equally applicable to optic density and chlorophyll fluorescence measurements for the quantification of some microalgae, but outperforms other spectroscopy methods to quantify the biomass of biofilm-forming and filamentous algae, highly pigmented species and non-photosynthetic eukaryotes. Thanks to its insensitivity to the sample's pigmentation, nephelometry is also the method of choice when chlorophyll content varies between samples or time points, for example due to abiotic stress or pathogen infection. As examples, we illustrate how nephelometry can be combined with fluorometry or image analysis to monitor the quantity and time-course of spore release in fertile kelps or the progression of symptoms in diseased algal cultures.
- algal cultivation