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Procedures for using the Horiba Scientific Aqualog® fluorometer to measure absorbance and fluorescence from dissolved organic matter

July 5, 2018

Advances in spectroscopic techniques have led to an increase in the use of optical measurements (absorbance and fluorescence) to assess dissolved organic matter composition and infer sources and processing. Although optical measurements are easy to make, they can be affected by many variables rendering them less comparable, including by inconsistencies in sample collection (for example, filter pore size, preservation), the application of corrections for interferences (for example, inner-filtering corrections), differences in holding times, and instrument drift (for example, lamp intensity). A documented, standardized procedure to address these variables ensures that the optical (absorbance and fluorescence) measurements collected by U.S. Geological Survey researchers are useful and widely comparable.

Rigorous and quantifiable quality assurance and quality control are essential for making these data comparable, particularly because there is no published guideline for the measurement of dissolved organic matter absorbance and fluorescence, and especially because there is no National Institute of Standards and Technology standard for dissolved organic matter. Validation and quality-control samples are analyzed on a monthly basis to determine laboratory and instrument precision and daily (that is, each day samples are run) to ensure repeatability. Data are not considered acceptable unless they meet laboratory criteria: All standards should be within 10 percent of the target value, laboratory replicates should be within 5 percent relative percent difference, and laboratory blanks (that is, laboratory reagent-grade water) should be less than one-tenth of the long-term method detection limit.

Finally, for data to be useful, they must be accessible to users in a format that can be easily analyzed and interpreted. The Organic Matter Research Laboratory staff has developed a processing routine that extracts a subset of the data, which is made available to the public through the USGS National Water Quality Information System (, and organizes the full datasets (that is, complete absorbance spectra and fluorescence excitation-emission matrices) in different forms that allow for these data to be analyzed using multi-parameter and multi-way statistical approaches.

Publication Year 2018
Title Procedures for using the Horiba Scientific Aqualog® fluorometer to measure absorbance and fluorescence from dissolved organic matter
DOI 10.3133/ofr20181096
Authors Angela M. Hansen, Jacob Fleck, Tamara E. C. Kraus, Bryan D. Downing, Travis von Dessonneck, Brian A. Bergamaschi
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2018-1096
Index ID ofr20181096
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center