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Efficient biodegradation of subsurface contaminants requires two elements: (1) microbial populations with the necessary degradative capabilities, and (2) favorable subsurface geochemical and hydrological conditions. Practical constraints on experimental design and interpretation in both the hydrogeological and microbiological sciences have resulted in limited knowledge of the interaction between hydrogeological and microbiological features of subsurface environments. These practical constraints include: (1) inconsistencies between the scales of investigation in the hydrogeological and microbiological sciences, and (2) practical limitations on the ability to accurately define microbial populations in environmental samples. However, advances in application of small-scale sampling methods and interdisciplinary approaches to site investigations are beginning to significantly improve understanding of hydrogeological and microbiological interactions. Likewise, culture-based and molecular analyses of microbial populations in subsurface contaminant plumes have revealed significant adaptation of microbial populations to plume environmental conditions. Results of recent studies suggest that variability in subsurface geochemical and hydrological conditions significantly influences subsurface microbial-community structure. Combined investigations of site conditions and microbial-community structure provide the knowledge needed to understand interactions between subsurface microbial populations, plume geochemistry, and contaminant biodegradation.