Microorganisms populate every habitable environment on Earth and, through their metabolic activity, affect the chemistry and physical properties of their surroundings. They have done this for billions of years. Over the past decade, genetic, biochemical, and genomic approaches have allowed us to document the diversity of microbial life in geologic systems without cultivation, as well as to begin to elucidate their function. With expansion of culture-independent analyses of microbial communities, it will be possible to quantify gene activity at the species level. Genome-enabled biogeochemical modeling may provide an opportunity to determine how communities function, and how they shape and are shaped by their environments.