Chemical biology relies on effective synthetic chemistry for building molecules to probe and modulate biological function. Olefin metathesis in organic solvents is a valuable addition to this armamentarium, and developments during the previous decade are enabling metathesis in aqueous solvents for the manipulation of biomolecules. Functional group-tolerant ruthenium metathesis catalysts modified with charged moieties or hydrophilic polymers are soluble and active in water, enabling ring-opening metathesis polymerization, cross metathesis, and ring-closing metathesis. Alternatively, conventional hydrophobic ruthenium complexes catalyze a similar array of metathesis reactions in mixtures of water and organic solvents. This strategy has enabled cross metathesis on the surface of a protein. Continuing developments in catalyst design and methodology will popularize the bioorthogonal reactivity of metathesis.