01 October 2020
Spatial structure over scales ranging from nanometres to centimetres (and beyond) varies markedly in diverse habitats and the industry-relevant settings that support microbial activity. Developing an understanding of the interplay between a structured environment and the associated microbial processes and ecology is fundamental, but challenging. Several novel approaches have recently been developed and implemented to help address key questions for the field: from the use of imaging tools such as X-ray Computed Tomography to explore microbial growth in soils, to the fabrication of scratched materials to examine microbial-surface interactions, to the design of microfluidic devices to track microbial biofilm formation and the metabolic processes therein. This review discusses new approaches and challenges for incorporating structured elements into the study of microbial processes across different scales. We highlight how such methods can be pivotal for furthering our understanding of microbial interactions with their environments.