Introducing CISME
New Underwater Photosynthesis and Respiration Instrument

What is CISME?

  • The name derives from 'Community In Situ MEtabolism', and is pronounced ‘kiss‐me’ to reflect the gentle interaction between the instrument and the coral/substrate.
  • A diver‐portable respirometer developed to measure metabolic rates of reef corals in situ under ambient conditions.
  • CISME also works with algae and other low‐relief benthic substrates.
  • CISME measures changes in oxygen and pH during short incubations in which water flow and light levels are user controlled.
  • Respiration (R) and photosynthesis (P) rates are calculated from these concentration changes.
  • R and P can be calculated both based on O2 and CO2 fluxes, from which RQs and PQs can be calculated.
  • Sample loops provide water samples that can be titrated for total alkalinity to calculate calcification rate.
  • The sample loop can also be used to experimentally introduce substances that might affect coral metabolism (e.g. acidified seawater for OA studies).

CISME Instrument Design

Electronics Housing: electronics components are contained in a pressure-resistant acrylic housing (80 m depth) connected by waterproof cables to the incubation flow‐sensor ‘head’.

Incubation Head: housing the sensors, pump, LED light source is attached by the user to the coral/substrate surface with special retractors.

Instrument Operation: CISME is operated with a proprietary Android app on a submersible Android tablet (not included) connected to the CISME by a WiFi cable.

Diver Portability: Instrument and underwater tablet together are ca. 5‐7 lbs negative UW.

Instrument Specifications

  • Measures O2 with Presens® optode and pH with Honeywell DuraFet® electrode at 1 sec interval
  • Recirculating incubation volumes produced by closed cell foam seal that traps seawater within CISME against low relief surfaces: corals, reef substrates such as turf and coralline algae, settlement plates
  • Non‐destructive sampling for massive corals with low rugosity surfaces
  • Programmable flow from 350 to 1200 ml min‐1; rpm feedback from pump
  • Programmable Light levels (PAR): 0 – 2500 μmol m‐2 s‐1
  • Programmable incubation routines (R, P, R+P, P+R, Custom multistep); P vs I curves can be pre‐programmed
  • Removable sample loop volume used to collect incubation water subsamples or introduce additives
  • Incubation volume: 71 ml with no sample loop; 88 ml with a 16 ml sample loop; 100 ml with flow cup
  • Optional sample cup for use with coral fragments, algae, small invertebrates and other detached organisms, and core tube adaptor for use with in situ sediments
  • Designed to maximize data collection by divers: short incubations of 5 to 60 minutes duration, depending on organism and desired measurements; calcification takes longer than just respiration and photosynthesis
  • High capacity external battery power allows up to 8 hours of use before recharging
  • Two brands of underwater Android tablets are commercially available from other vendors: and customized to house a Samsung Galaxy S2 9.7”
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CISME was developed by Drs. Alina M. Szmant and Robert F. Whitehead, University of North Carolina Wilmington Center for Marine Science with funding from NOAA OER Grant NA09OAR4320073. They have a set of instruments available for testing by trained and qualified research divers who are willing to collaborate with CISME Instruments by giving feedback. A few “early adopter” units are available for sale.

CISME instruments are sold through Bay Instruments.