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This paper describes the proof-of-concept performance of a low-cost phase fluorometer designed to capture the fluorescence lifetime of chlorophyll in various stages of healthy marine life. The proof-of-concept experimental demonstration is completed using fluoroscein as a close simulant of chlorophyll. Results are extrapolated analytically using simulation to project performance limits (detection and lifetime) in chlorophyll rich environments. The designed system is able to compete with the fundamental performance limits of existing fluorometers designed for chlorophyll analysis while reducing power consumption by a factor of 20, power supply by an order of magnitude or more (to 12 V), and cost by a factor of ten (to a target low-volume system cost of $1000).