We have developed a substrate-induced growth response (SIGR) method for quantifying activity and population dynamics of microorganisms involved in bioremediation processes in soil and bioreactors. The biomass of organisms that can mineralize a given chemical can be estimated based on the concentration of that chemical needed to induce the growth of the standing population. Estimates of population size are obtained by using nonlinear regression techniques to fit a simple model of microbial population dynamics to biodegradation curves. Using this approach we obtain estimates of values for parameters such as initial population size and growth rate of organisms carrying out biodegradative processes. Our approach was validated by comparing model parameter estimates with independent estimates of the same parameters from the same bioremediation systems. Examples studied include pentachlorophenol degraders introduced into soil and 2,4-dinitrophenol degrading organisms in a bioreactor.