When autofluorescent proteins (AFPs), such as green fluorescent protein (GFP) and Discosoma striata red fluorescent protein (DsRed), are excited with light of a specific wavelength, they emit light of a longer wavelength, without the further addition of substrates. A range of AFPs have been identified and cloned from marine organisms, and mutagenesis techniques have been employed to develop improved variant AFPs for applications in biologic research. In recent years, AFP technology has become an important tool for microbiologists and microbial ecologists studying processes such as microbe-plant interactions, biosensors, biofilm formation, and horizontal gene transfer. The ability to use AFPs with differing fluorescent spectra within a single cell has allowed simultaneous monitoring of several aspects of microbial physiology and gene expression in situ in real time. This provides a tremendous insight into microbial function and behavior in natural environments. Furthermore, the integration of AFP reporters with other markets and technologies is facilitating a systems approach to research in microbial ecology.