Microorganisms are key components of all life forms and ecosystems. But living bodies are more challenging to predict than non-living particles because they produce sophisticated responses to chemical and mechanical cues. This talk draws examples from bacteria and zooplankton navigating in controlled laboratory experiments. Upon entry into a confined space or an encounter with an approaching predator, they show escape responses that are remarkably robust. These behaviors can be understood in terms of a theoretical model that accounts for hydrodynamic and thermal effects. The results suggest that complex behavioral patterns may emerge from a simple physical stimulus or change in the external environment.