1. Dynamic energy budget (DEB) models describe how individuals acquire and utilize energy, and can serve as a link between different levels of biological organization. 2. We describe the formulation and testing of DEB models, and show how the dynamics of individual organisms link to molecular processes, to population dynamics, and (more tenuously) to ecosystem dynamics. 3. DEB models offer mechanistic explanations of body-size scaling relationships. 4. DEB models constitute powerful tools for applications in toxicology and bio-technology. 5. Challenging questions arise when linking DEB models with evolutionary theory.