© 2016 Elsevier Ltd. Stable isotopes are flexibly used as tracers to investigate environmental processes, microorganisms responsible for environmental transformations, syntrophic relationships in consortia, and metabolic pathways. With the advent of widely accessible high-resolution, highly accurate and sensitive mass spectrometers connected to liquid chromatography (LC-MS/MS) and the explosion of microbial genome sequence information the options to apply stable isotope tracers to geobiochemical topics have multiplied. With methods at hand to analyze biochemical pathways and enzymatic functions of yet-uncultivated microorganisms even in mixed cultures, a wide field of new discoveries can be expected. Applications rely both on the high sensitivity to detect trace amounts of biological material in slow or non-growing cultures and on the high multi-dimensional resolution of LC-MS/MS to allow the separation of complex samples and to retrieve phylogenetic information. Challenges and examples of stable isotope applications to describe geobiochemical processes are reviewed. Overall, the potential is not yet sufficiently deployed.