A sensor that measures microbial activity as a surrogate value for the biologically active content of soil, aquatic sediments, or groundwater. An anode, such as a graphite anode that can support a biofilm, is connected by way of a resistor to a cathode. The anode is in contact with either soil, sediment, or immersed in the groundwater of a subsurface monitoring well. The biofilm generates electrons as a consequence of chemical interactions with materials such as acetate dissolved in the soil or sediment waters or groundwater. The cathode is located in soil or water adjacent to the ground, which can be aerobic, so that a reaction that consumes electrons occurs at the cathode. The current flowing through the resistor is a measure of the biological activity at the anode, which correlates with the flux of fuel such as acetate to the anode.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 This invention was made with government support under Grant DE-SC0006790 awarded by the Department of Energy. The government has certain rights in the invention.