The interplay of physical and biogeochemical processes in the ocean can result in well-defined vertical gradients and maxima in biological properties. When these gradients and maxima exist near the sea surface, it is possible to use satellite or airborne remote sensing to infer physical structure of thin layers, fronts, and internal waves within the ocean. The necessary conditions for this application of remote sensing are tied to the Inherent Optical Properties (IOP) of the water and to the local concentration (layers) of particles within the optical viewing range of remote sensing systems. In this paper, we use a two-stream radiative transfer model to demonstrate that discrete layers of particles (usually phytoplankton) can provide sufficient remotely sensed reflectance to resolve associated subsurface physical features such as the depth of specific layers of optical materials, depth and position of frontal boundaries, and the wavelength and amplitude of near-surface internal waves. This inversion of remotely sensed optical properties to obtain information on physical structure depends on the association of in-water biological, optical, and physical structure (for specific examples, see other articles in this issue).