The science of the environment encompasses a huge number of biological, chemical and physical disciplines. For several years, scientists have been interested in large-scale environmental processes/phenomena, such as soil formation, global warming and global elemental cycling. Until recently, the role and impact of micro-organisms on these ‘global’ environmental processes has been largely ignored or, at best, underestimated. However, there is growing awareness that important environmental transformations are catalysed, mediated and influenced by micro-organisms, and such knowledge is having an increasing influence on disciplines other than microbiology, such as geology and mineralogy. Geomicrobiology can be defined as the study of the role that microbes have played and are playing in processes of fundamental importance to geology. As such, it is a truly interdisciplinary subject area, necessitating input from physical, chemical and biological sciences, in particular combining the fields of environmental and molecular microbiology together with significant areas of mineralogy, geochemistry and hydrology. As a result, geomicrobiology is probably the most rapidly growing area of microbiology at present. It is timely that this topic should be the subject of a Plenary Symposium volume of the Society for General Microbiology (SGM) to emphasize and define this important area of microbiological interest, and help to promote exciting collaborations between microbiologists and other environmental and Earth scientists.