Abstract. Requirements for understanding the relationships between ocean color and suspended and dissolved materials within the water column, and a rapidly emerging photonics and materials technology base for performing optical based analytical techniques have generated a diverse offering of commercial sensors and research prototypes that perform optical measurements in water. Through inversion, these tools are now being used to determine a diverse set of related biogeochemical and physical parameters. Techniques engaged include measurement of the solar radiance distribution, absorption, scattering, stimulated fluorescence, flow cytometry, and various spectroscopy methods. Selective membranes and other techniques for material isolation further enhance specificity, leading to sensors for measurement of dissolved oxygen, methane, carbon dioxide, common nutrients and a variety of other parameters. Scientists are using these measurements to infer information related to an increasing set of parameters and wide range of applications over relevant scales in space and time.