Field Evaluation of the Sequoia Scientific LISST-ABS Acoustic Backscatter Sediment Sensor

Open-File Report 2020-1096
Federal Interagency Sedimentation Project and Observing Systems Division
By: , and 



Sequoia Scientific’s LISST-ABS is a submersible acoustic instrument that measures the acoustic backscatter sensor (ABS) concentration at a point within a river, stream, or creek. Compared to traditional physical methods for measuring suspended-sediment concentration (SSC), sediment surrogates like the LISST-ABS offer continuous data that can be calibrated with physical SSC samples. Data were collected at 10 U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations between January 10, 2016, and February 21, 2018, across the contiguous United States to test the accuracy and effectiveness of using the LISST-ABS as a surrogate for measuring the concentration of suspended sediment in a dynamic fluvial system. Correlation coefficients (Pearson’s r values) relating the ABS concentration and SSC from physical samples ranged from r = 0.718 to r = 0.956 at the 10 stations with the mean percentage of fines (percentage of the sediment less than 62.5 microns in diameter) ranging from 65 to 100 percent (with minimum and maximum values of 18 and 100 percent, respectively). The LISST-ABS instruments used in this field evaluation were factory-calibrated to accurately determine SSC for grains in the diameter range of 75–90 microns. Note that the sensor responds to grains of arbitrary sizes, but the accuracy varies at sizes other than this calibration size. For operational use, regression models could be determined for the ABS concentrations and SSC values or the instrument could be recalibrated to sediments for each fluvial environment. However, such calibrations were beyond the scope of this report.

Suggested Citation

Manaster, A.E., Straub, T.D., Wood, M.S., Bell, J.M., Dombroski, D.E., and Curran, C.A., 2020, Field evaluation of the Sequoia Scientific LISST-ABS acoustic backscatter sediment sensor: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1096, 26 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose and Scope
  • Methods
  • Acoustic Backscatter Sensor, Turbidity, and Suspended-Sediment Concentration Relations Across Stations
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Field evaluation of the Sequoia Scientific LISST-ABS acoustic backscatter sediment sensor
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2020-1096
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201096
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Central Midwest Water Science Center
Description Report: v, 26 p.; Data Release
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details