Date of Award

Fall 1977

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean & Earth Sciences



Committee Director

Anthony J. Provenzano

Committee Member

Geore Ofelt

Committee Member

Peter Fleischer

Committee Member

Ronald E. Johnson

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.O35 C35


A study was made in Hampton Roads, Virginia, to characterize the suspended matter and to investigate its relationship to the light attenuation coefficient. The study gives a detailed description of the seston and its variations with time and space. An evaluation of the light attenuation coefficient as an indicator of seston distributional parameters was made.

The distribution of the suspended matter is obtained through gravimetric, Coulter counter and microscopic analyses. Microscopic analysis is employed to determine the composition of the seston and ATP determinations give the amount of living biomass. The suspended matter is characterized in terms of weight, numbers, and volume and these distributions indicate that the surface and river waters are of one distinct type, whereas, the bottom and bay waters form another. The appearance of the seston is documented with microphotographs which illustrate the various types of material. The population of loosely bound agglomerates seems to be in steady state, and this fact may be significant to the estuarine biogeochemical cycles. Bacteria and forms other than phytoplankton composed most of the living material and these organisms are not implicated in the agglomeration process.

The light attenuation coefficient, a., is a quick and fairly accurate indicator of the seston distributional parameters. Multiple linear regression models of light attenuation as a function of the seston concentration, size distribution and composition indicate that the concentration of mineral particlesμmin diameter is the most important factor in producing turbidity. Below 100 μm the most significant particle size is the increment from 5-25.4 μm. When mineral concentrationμmis combined with the number and volume means of the particle distribution the best model for light attenuation is obtained. The concentration of mineral particlesμm and its state of agglomeration are the best predictors of alpha in this model.


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