The goal of this study was to test the hypothesis that the aggregated state of natural marine particles constrains the sensitivity of optical beam attenuation to particle size. An instrumented bottom tripod was deployed at the 12-m node of the Martha's Vineyard Coastal Observatory to monitor particle size distributions, particle size-versus-settling-velocity relationships, and the beam attenuation coefficient (cp) in the bottom boundary layer in September 2007. An automated in situ filtration system on the tripod collected 24 direct estimates of suspended particulate mass (SPM) during each of five deployments. On a sampling interval of 5 min, data from a Sequoia Scientific LISST 100x Type B were merged with data from a digital floc camera to generate suspended particle volume size distributions spanning diameters from approximately 2 μm to 4 cm. Diameter-dependent densities were calculated from size-versus-settling-velocity data, allowing conversion of the volume size distributions to mass distributions, which were used to estimate SPM every 5 min. Estimated SPM and measured cp from the LISST 100x were linearly correlated throughout the experiment, despite wide variations in particle size. The slope of the line, which is the ratio of cp to SPM, was 0.22 g m−2. Individual estimates of cp:SPM were between 0.2 and 0.4 g m−2 for volumetric median particle diameters ranging from 10 to 150 μm. The wide range of values in cp:SPM in the literature likely results from three factors capable of producing factor-of-two variability in the ratio: particle size, particle composition, and the finite acceptance angle of commercial beam-transmissometers.