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Metadata Report for BODC Series Reference Number 636648

Metadata Summary

Data Description

Data Category Plankton measurements
Instrument Type
Focal Technologies Corporation optical plankton counter  in-situ particle sizers
Instrument Mounting towed unmanned submersible
Originating Country United Kingdom
Originator -
Originating Organization Fisheries Research Services Aberdeen Marine Laboratory (now Marine Scotland Aberdeen Marine Laboratory)
Processing Status banked
Online delivery of data Download not available
Project(s) Marine Productivity

Data Identifiers

Originator's Identifier MP2P581
BODC Series Reference 636648

Time Co-ordinates(UT)

Start Time (yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm) 2002-05-17 21:40
End Time (yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm) 2002-05-18 01:59
Nominal Cycle Interval 30.0 seconds

Spatial Co-ordinates

Start Latitude 64.95150 N ( 64° 57.1' N )
End Latitude 64.93180 N ( 64° 55.9' N )
Start Longitude 32.49450 W ( 32° 29.7' W )
End Longitude 32.04480 W ( 32° 2.7' W )
Positional Uncertainty 0.0 to 0.01 n.miles
Minimum Sensor or Sampling Depth 1.0 m
Maximum Sensor or Sampling Depth 1890.8 m
Minimum Sensor or Sampling Height -
Maximum Sensor or Sampling Height -
Sea Floor Depth -
Sea Floor Depth Source -
Sensor or Sampling Distribution Variable common depth - All sensors are grouped effectively at the same depth, but this depth varies significantly during the series
Sensor or Sampling Depth Datum Instantaneous - Depth measured below water line or instantaneous water body surface
Sea Floor Depth Datum -


BODC CODERankUnitsTitle
MNESDOPC0Micrometres (microns)Size class minimum size (equivalent spherical diameter) by optical plankton counter
AADYAA011DaysDate (time from 00:00 01/01/1760 to 00:00 UT on day)
AAFDZZ011DaysTime (time between 00:00 UT and timestamp)
ALATAS011DegreesLatitude north relative to WGS84 by Ashtech GPS
ALONAS011DegreesLongitude east relative to WGS84 by Ashtech GPS
DEPHPREN1MetresDepth (spatial coordinate) of sampling event end relative to water surface in the water body by profiling pressure sensor and conversion to depth using unspecified algorithm
DEPHPRMN1MetresMean depth below sea surface (during sampling event) by profiling pressure sensor and conversion to depth using unspecified algorithm
DEPHPRST1MetresDepth (spatial coordinate) of sampling event start relative to water surface in the water body by profiling pressure sensor and conversion to depth using unspecified algorithm
IDNOOPCS1DimensionlessSample reference number (optical plankton recorder count)
MBANZZ011MetresSea-floor depth (below instantaneous sea level) {bathymetric depth} in the water body by echo sounder
VOLSPOPC1LitresVolume of sample from the water body by optical plankton counter
ZU00C00Z2Number per litreAbundance of zooplankton [Size: externally-defined OPC size class] per unit volume of the water body by optical plankton counter

Definition of Rank

  • Rank 1 is a one-dimensional parameter
  • Rank 2 is a two-dimensional parameter
  • Rank 0 is a one-dimensional parameter describing the second dimension of a two-dimensional parameter (e.g. bin depths for moored ADCP data)

Problem Reports

No Problem Report Found in the Database

Data Access Policy

Open Data supplied by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

You must always use the following attribution statement to acknowledge the source of the information: "Contains data supplied by Natural Environment Research Council."

Narrative Documents

DI262- Optical Plankton Counter (OPC)


The OPC was deployed as part of the Auto-sampling and Recording Instrumented Environmental Sampler (ARIES) package.

Onboard data processing

No cruise specific information relating to on-board data processing has been supplied to BODC. The format of the supplied data files suggest standard Marine Laboratory Aberdeen (MLA) processing.

BODC data processing

A total of 48 processed OPC data files were supplied to BODC.


The parameters in the OPC data files were mapped to BODC parameter codes and transferred to BODC QXF format.

The following OPC parameters were transferred: date/time (mean value over sample period), Sample Number, Sample Volume, latitude (mean), longitude (mean), echo sounding (mean), sample depth (start),sample depth (end), mean sample depth, OPC concentration in each size class. Parameters not transferred are date/time (start/end), latitude (start/end), longitude (start/end) and echo sounding (start/end).The source for the navigation is assumed to be the Ashtec G12 data stream and the echo sounding (bathymetry) is uncorrected depth.

The following transformations were applied during transfer:

  • Sample volume was converted from m3 to litres.
  • OPC counts were converted to counts/litre using the corresponding sample volume

During transfer negative depth (start and/or end) values were set to null and flagged accordingly, or else the transfer failed. Cycles in the original data where the sample volume=0.0000 are not transferred. It was assumed that no water was sampled over the period and even if counts were evident it was not possible to calculate a concentration/unit volume without estimation. All the remaining associated information (navigation and bathymetry) is available separately in the underway data set.


The data were visually inspected using the BODC in house software Xerplo.

Relatively high concentration spikes were observed to be associated with small sample volumes. These were assumed to be artifacts arising from poor averaging. It was not feasible to manually flag these data and as a consequence the particle concentration data were flagged automatically using a minimum accurate sample volume threshold of 10 litres.

Time/Positional checks: visually checked by comparing the OPC data with the baseline 'master' underway navigation data. Latitude and Longitude time series were identical between OPC and underway confirming that there were no discrepancies in time or position.

Particle concentration spectra data were visually inspected for obvious out lying individual data values. When encountered these were flagged as suspect.

The bathymetric data transferred from the originators files is uncorrected bathymetric depth. corrected bathymetric depth is available in the underway data set.

Data quality

Elevated concentrations, particularly in the smaller size classes were evident in the near surface data. This was assumed to be contamination by air bubbles and was commonly associated with deployment and recovery of ARIES. Due to the volume of potentially suspect data, flagging of individual points was not attempted.

An artifact of the transformation from raw data to ESD is that there are parts of the size spectrum with identical values. This is most noticeable in the first 8 size classes but is also evident elsewhere. The degree of replication is dependent on the algorithm used. The transformation algorithm was not supplied with the data and interested parties should contact the data originator.

FRS- Focal Technology Optical Plankton Counter (OPC)


The following is summary of the standard operating protocol for the Optical Plankton Counter (OPC) employed at Marine Laboratories Aberdeen (MLA). These are described in full by Heath (2001).

The OPC is manufactured by Focal Technology (Canada). The basic principle of the OPC is that particles passing through the sampling tunnel interrupt a collimated light beam. Each particle produces a pulse with a size which is related to the equivalent spherical diameter (ESD) of the particle. The pulse height is digitized, and the resulting value is referred to as the digital size. Thus, each particle is registered as a bytes of data with a value related to the particle ESD. Focal Technology supply a non-linear calibration equation to convert digital size to ESD (microns).

The standard OPC is designed to transmit data by frequency shift key (FSK) up a conducting cable to a support vessel. A data logger intercepts the serial data stream prior to the FSK converter and integrates in real time over user defined time and size bins. The logger also receives analogue inputs from a flow meter and a pressure sensor, digitizes these data and incorporates them into the record associated with each time integral.The logger is programmed by serial communications from a PC. The logged data are stored in lithium backed-up memory, and down loaded over a serial link to a PC for processing.

In a typical MLA setup incoming particle size information (bytes) would be accumulated into 128 bins of equal width in terms of digital size, over 30 sec time intervals. The logger does not exploit the full dynamic size range of the OPC. This is because a) the ESD calibration is highly non-linear over the upper half of the digital size range, and b) particle in the upper half of the range are very rarely encountered and such organisms are probably very able to avoid the sampling tunnel. The upper limit of the largest size bin is therefore equivalent to a particle diameter of 5500 µm. An additional bin catches all particles larger than this limit.


The system can be used in two ways:

  • lowered deployment with the ship stationary (DIP)
  • towed deployment (TOW)

The software for communicating with the logger puts a flag in the down loaded file to indicate which type of deployment has taken place. If the deployment was a DIP then the user is prompted to supply the latitude, longitude and echo sounding at the deployment location. If the deployment was a TOW, position and echo sounding data are logged independently on a separate PC from that used to communicate with the OPC logger. These data are referred to as navigation data and are merged with the OPC data in subsequent processing. The clock in the OPC logger is manually synchronized with that in the source of navigation data before deployment,logging of navigation data commences before initiation of logging of OPC data, and termination of logging of navigation data occurs after the OPC logger is powered down on recovery. Thus, the navigation data file is of longer duration than the OPC logger file, and be time-synchronized. A typical logging interval for navigation data would be 60s

The logger has been used to record data over a range of time intervals from 1 or 2 seconds for lowered profiles in shallow water, to 60 sec in long deep tows. There is a trade off between time interval and number of bins with respect to the capacity of the memory in the logger; 128 bins and a 1s interval equates to approximately 25 minutes endurance.


Processing software is used to decode the raw data file produced by the logger. The software assigns a latitude, longitude and echo sounding to the start, end and mid time of each sample of data. In the case of DIP deployments the same position is assumed for all samples. In the case of TOW deployments positions and echo soundings are interpolated at OPC times from the logged navigation data file.For a towed deployment the navigation data are first checked to ensure they are clean- especially with respect to erroneous echo soundings. A graphical editing programme is used to help manually clean up a the navigation data file. The edited data are written out to a new file which can be used in the data processing.

Using calibration data (pressure sensor, free flow meter and pumped flow meter) supplied by a logger configuration file:

  • Pressure, counts and flow data are converted from high and low bytes to digitized variables by: variable = (256 * high byte) + low byte
  • Digitized pressure is converted to metres of seawater by a calibration equation of the form: Depth (m) = A + B*variable
  • Digitized flow rate is in units of impeller rev s-1, and is converted to speed through the water by: Speed (ms-1) = variable /flowcal, where flowcal has the units of revolutions m-1

The sample volume is calculated. The processing software checks the flow meter data and if it is acceptable then it is used. If not, then the volume is calculated using the distance towed over the ground in the sample interval with some correction for wire veer/recovery speed. There is an option to completely override the flow meter data it is KNOWN to be malfunctioning. In this instance all the calculations are made using distance towed. Flow meter data are utilised wherever possible.

The logged particle count data are in bins of equal width with respect to digital size. There are options to re-bin on a scale of ESD,volume, logESD or logVolume. The MLA typically realign the counts across a new set of user defined bins of equal ESD width, ususally 136 classes of 40 µm bin width, with 100 µm ESD for the lower limit.

The result of the processing is a .DAT file with a fixed structure independent of deployment type.


M.R. Heath (2001). Programmable data logger for the Focal Technology Optical Plankton Counter (OPC): Principles of operation and software manual. FRS Marine laboratory internal document.

Project Information

Marine Productivity programme (MarProd)

The Marine Productivity programme (MarProd) was a Thematic Programme of the Natural Environment Research Council. It was funded for a period of five years starting in 2000. Its main goal was "to develop coupled modelling and observation systems for the pelagic ecosystem, with emphasis on physical factors affecting zooplankton dynamics" with the following specific objectives:

  • To identify the dominant spatial and temporal scales of physical parameters and zooplankton population dynamics, by observation, modelling and retrospective analysis

  • To parameterise the critical processes governing zooplankton dynamics by observations and experiments

  • To construct and validate spatially explicit models of zooplankton and their food and predators, capable of resolving short term changes in population structure

  • To provide data for model validation by developing and applying new interdisciplinary techniques to a wide spectrum of biological and physical parameters

  • To develop a database and information system for historic and new data and models.

The programme was composed of two phases: Phase 1 projects (2000-2002) focused on the use of historical datasets and existing biological models, complemented by laboratory experiments and remote-sensing analyses to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of zooplankton populations in shelf seas. The main, field-based Phase 2 of the programme (2001-2005) focused on the open ocean. The fieldwork phase took place between November 2001 and December 2002 and consisted of four surveys in the northern North Atlantic in early winter 2001 and 2002, and in spring and summer 2002.

MarProd was a major UK contribution to the international Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics project (GLOBEC).

Data Activity or Cruise Information


Cruise Name D262
Departure Date 2002-04-18
Arrival Date 2002-05-26
Principal Scientist(s)Kelvin Richards (University of Southampton School of Ocean and Earth Science)
Ship RRS Discovery

Complete Cruise Metadata Report is available here

Fixed Station Information

No Fixed Station Information held for the Series

BODC Quality Control Flags

The following single character qualifying flags may be associated with one or more individual parameters with a data cycle:

Flag Description
Blank Unqualified
< Below detection limit
> In excess of quoted value
A Taxonomic flag for affinis (aff.)
B Beginning of CTD Down/Up Cast
C Taxonomic flag for confer (cf.)
D Thermometric depth
E End of CTD Down/Up Cast
G Non-taxonomic biological characteristic uncertainty
H Extrapolated value
I Taxonomic flag for single species (sp.)
K Improbable value - unknown quality control source
L Improbable value - originator's quality control
M Improbable value - BODC quality control
N Null value
O Improbable value - user quality control
P Trace/calm
Q Indeterminate
R Replacement value
S Estimated value
T Interpolated value
U Uncalibrated
W Control value
X Excessive difference

SeaDataNet Quality Control Flags

The following single character qualifying flags may be associated with one or more individual parameters with a data cycle:

Flag Description
0 no quality control
1 good value
2 probably good value
3 probably bad value
4 bad value
5 changed value
6 value below detection
7 value in excess
8 interpolated value
9 missing value
A value phenomenon uncertain
B nominal value
Q value below limit of quantification