The last 10 years of biological research have demonstrated that microbes have dominated the biosphere throughout Earth’s history. Microbes play major roles in such broad processes as maintenance of human health and the dynamic balance of ecosystems. Concomitant with this growing awareness of microbial centrality, advances in technology have given us the ability to now articulate basic biological principles in much the same way as was done in physics and chemistry decades ago. The fundamental assumption that guides this course is that the biology of microbes provides a unique opportunity to present these unifying principles. Therefore, for each topic, our point of departure will be the microbial world. With this foundation, we will explore how other life forms, such as animals and plants, have diversified in form and function, abstracting from the basic ‘rules’ provided by the microbial world. The backdrop for the course is the richness of the Hawaiian Archipelago, both the ecosystems diversity that it holds and the interface of the Hawaiian culture with the landscape.