LabSTAF Portable Phytoplankton Primary Productivity Instrument

Single Turnover Active Fluorometry (STAF) for measuring phytoplankton primary productivity (PhytoPP)

LabSTAF Is the next generation of STAF-based instrumentation to measure phytoplankton primary productivity. The system incorporates unparalleled sensitivity with a wide dynamic range, allowing for measurements in all environments: from reservoirs and lakes to open ocean.

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LabSTAF is the next generation of STAF-based instrumentation to measure phytoplankton primary productivity


autostaf chartSingle Turnover Active Fluorometry (STAF) is widely accepted for non-invasive primary productivity assessment in the field. LabSTAF is the next generation of STAF-based primary productivity instrumentation for measuring phytoplankton primary productivity (PhytoPP) in all water environments from coastal waters and lakes to the open ocean.

Chelsea’s LabSTAF monitors phytoplankton using the latest in STAF technology. The system combines unparalleled sensitivity with a wide dynamic range, allowing for measurements in extreme oligotrophic waters, open oceans, coastal waters and lakes. The highly automated platform runs continuous Fluorescence Light Curves (FLCs), improving the accuracy of STAF-based PhytoPP assessment for greater precision at low biomass, correction of spectral errors, baseline fluorescence and the package effect.

LabSTAF’s compact and robust unit is ideal for deployment on research vessels and in the lab. A number of features have been specifically incorporated to minimise errors associated with the conversion of STAF data to PhytoPP including: Seven waveband excitation, dual fluorescence waveband measurement and baseline subtraction.



Traditional methods of measuring primary productivity make acquiring good data for ocean science challenging:

  • Satellite remote sensing methodology is the broadest large-scale method, but produces large errors, requires validation and is unable to probe below the surface
  • Traditional methods such as 14C fixation are slow, expensive laboratory-based processes requiring handling and training protocols for radioisotopes, with extremely long incubation times of 8-24hrs.


LabSTAF, using Single Turnover Active Fluorometry (STAF) technology, provides a revolutionary new method to enable large-scale PhytoPP assessment.

  • Laboratory instrument, ideal for use on research vessels and laboratories
  • Unparalleled sensitivity allowing for measurements in extreme oligotrophic water
  • Fully automated acquisition for continuous measurements
  • Wide dynamic range providing reliable measurements in open oceans and lakes
  • Advanced corrections as standard: seven waveband excitation, dual fluorescence waveband measurement and baseline subtraction


LabSTAF, A fast, lightweight device to measure algal activityWHAT CAN LABSTAF DO FOR YOU?

  • Measure – A fast, lightweight device to measure primary productivity
  • Automate – continuous automated data measurement
  • Versatile – Suitable for use in all environments
  • Precision – Wide dynamic range with extreme sensitivity at low biomass
  • Practical – Low cost, robust portable unit designed to be operated by a single person
  • Inform – Health, growth and type of algae datasets


LabSTAF to detect algal blooms

  • Analysis of the biochemistry and ecology of aquatic systems
  • Verification of satellite data
  • Facilitates measurement at scales from mesoscale eddies to oceanic fronts
  • Climate change research and modelling
  • Monitoring of algal bloom development and community structure
  • Ecological monitoring to manage water catchments
  • Identify and mitigate sources affecting water quality in catchments
  • Quantitative assessment for the fundamental systems driving the global carbon cycle
  • Measurement of PSII photochemical flux per unit volume (JVPII) to provide an upper limit to PhytoPP at high spatiotemporal scales


  • Benchtop instrument to measure primary productivity using fluorescence, giving data for over 50 useful parameters within 15 minutes
  • LabSTAF includes a peristaltic pump, solenoid unit and flow-through stirrer unit to provide for mixing, sample exchange and a periodic cleaning cycle.
  • Also included is a Surface Go 2 laptop, pre-installed with the regularly updated RunSTAF software.
  • Data from LabSTAF is interpreted and analysed internally in the included Surface Go

Features & Applications

What is LabSTAF?
LabSTAF data

  • Monitoring phytoplankton primary productivity using the latest in STAF technology
  • Unparalleled sensitivity allowing measurements in extreme oligotrophic waters
  • Wide dynamic range providing reliable measurements from open ocean, coastal waters and lakes
  • Fully automated acquisition allows for continuous measurements without manual intervention
  • Compact and robust portable unit – ideal for deployment on research vessels and outdoor locations
  • Automated sample exchange and system cleaning for extended autonomous operation

Why LabSTAF?

  • Advanced corrections as standard:
  • Seven waveband excitation for spectral correction of photosynthetic measurements and assessment of community structure
  • Dual fluorescence waveband measurement to compensate for the reabsorption of chlorophyll fluorescence through the package effect
  • Baseline subtraction to exclude fluorescence signal from non-photosynthetic sources

LabSTAF data output
LabSTAF clients

  • Automated archiving so primary data is always secured
  • Real time data processing and presentation with a wide range viewing options
  • Flexible experimental design from manual control to complex fully automated acquisition set through the dedicated software, RunSTAF, running on the supplied Surface Go laptop
  • Data extraction functions incorporated within RunSTAF provide easy access to extended primary data sets in csv format

Technical Features

  • Integration of the absorption method for quantifying photosynthesis (Oxborough et al. 2012)
  • Seven measurement wavebands to allow for routine spectral correction based on variable fluorescence (Fv)
  • Dual narrow waveband fluorescence measurement, centered at 685 nm and 730 nm, for automated package effect correction (Boatman et al. 2019)
  • Dual Single Turnover pulse method for the measurement of relaxation phase kinetics
  • Full spectrum blue-enhanced actinic illumination providing up to 2500 µmol photons m-2 s-1
  • Circulating water jacket for the sample chamber, which avoids intersection with optical paths
  • Potential replacement for 14C based photosynthetron measurements
  • Three acquisition modes: automated FLC, manual control and dark flow


Power supply 140 – 400 mA at 24 V (3.4 – 9.7 W)
Dimensions (mm) 235 (H) x 320 (W) x 420 (D)
Mass (approx.) 8.1 kg
Sample Chamber 20 mL sample volume with fused silica vertical cylinder, BK7 base
Excitation wavebands (wavelength) 452, 472, 505, 417, 534, 594, 622 nm
Actinic light source Collimated output from 10 – 2400 μmol photons m² s¹ at 12 bit resolution
Detection limit Can resolve Fwith an amplitude equivalent to 0.001 mg m-3 of chlorophyll a
IP rating IP65
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