Catherine S. McFadden

Vivian and D. Kenneth Baker Professor in the Life Sciences

F.W. Olin Science Center, Room 2361
1250 N. Dartmouth Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711

Education & professional experience

  • B.S., Yale University
  • Ph.D., University of Washington
  • Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Davis
  • NATO Postdoctoral Fellow, Port Erin Marine Laboratory, Isle of Man
  • Research Associate, University College, Dublin
  • Assistant Professor, Harvey Mudd College
  • Associate Professor, Harvey Mudd College
  • Research Associate, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
  • Professor of Biology, Harvey Mudd College


  • Chem 25: Freshman Chemistry Laboratory
  • Bio 52: Introduction to Biology
  • Bio 54: Biology Laboratory
  • Bio 108: Ecology & Environmental Biology
  • Bio 109: Evolutionary Biology
  • Bio 110: Experimental Ecology Laboratory
  • Bio 121: Marine Ecology

Research Interests

Professor McFadden’s research addresses the evolutionary relationships of marine organisms, primarily corals belonging to the cnidarian sub-class Octocorallia. She and her students use a variety of molecular techniques to address the phylogenetic relationships among higher taxa of octocorals, relationships of genera and species boundaries in the soft coral family Alcyoniidae, and the evolutionary consequences of hybridization between species in the soft coral genus Alcyonium. Much of the ongoing work in the lab focuses on the construction of a detailed molecular phylogeny for subclass Octocorallia as part of the NSF-funded Cnidarian Tree of Life Project.


Benayahu, Y., and C.S. McFadden.  2011.  A new genus of soft coral of the family Alcyoniidae (Cnidaria, Octocorallia) with re-description of a new combination and description of a new species.  Zookeys 84:1-11:

McFadden, C.S., Y. Benayahu, E. Pante, J.N. Thoma, P.A. Nevarez* and S.C. France. 2011.  Limitations of mitochondrial gene barcoding in Octocorallia. Molecular Ecology Resources 11: 19-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-0998.2010.02875.x

McFadden, C.S., J.A. Sanchez and S.C. France. 2010. Molecular phylogenetic insights into the evolution of Octocorallia: a review. Integr. Comp. Biol. 50: 389-410.  doi: 10.1093/icb/icq056

Ofwegen, L.P. van and C.S. McFadden. 2010. A new family of octocorals from Cameroon waters.  Journal of Natural History 44: 23-29.

Parrin, A.P., S.E. Netherton, L.S. Bross, C.S. McFadden, and N.W. Blackstone. 2010. Circulation of fluids in the gastrovascular system of a stoloniferan octocoral. Biological Bulletin 219: 112-121.

McFadden, C.S., L.P. van Ofwegen, E.J. Beckman*, Y. Benayahu and P. Alderslade. 2009 Molecular systematics of the speciose Indo-Pacific soft coral genus, Sinularia (Anthozoa: Octocorallia). Invertebrate Biology 128: 303-323.

Daly, M., M.R. Brugler, P. Cartwright, A.G. Collins, M.N. Dawson, D.G. Fautin, S.C. France, C.S. McFadden, D.M. Opresko, E. Rodriguez, S.L. Romano, and J.L. Stake.  2007.  The phylum Cnidaria: A review of phylogenetic patterns and diversity 300 years after Linnaeus. Zootaxa (1668): 127-182.

Alderslade, P., and C.S. McFadden.  2007.  Pinnule-less polyps: a new genus and new species of Indo-Pacific Clavulariidae and validation of the soft coral genus Acrossota and the family Acrossotidae (Coelenterata : Octocorallia).Zootaxa (1400): 27-44.

McFadden, C.S., P. Alderslade, L.P. van Ofwegen, H. Johnsen* and A. Rusmevichientong*. 2006. Phylogenetic relationships within the tropical soft coral genera Sarcophyton and Lobophytum (Anthozoa, Octocorallia). Invertebrate Biology 125 (4): 288-305.

McFadden, C.S., S.C. France, J.A. Sánchez and P. Alderslade. 2006. A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the Octocorallia (Coelenterata: Anthozoa) based on mitochondrial protein-coding sequences (ND2, msh1). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 41 (3): 513-527. [abstract]

Knudsen, B., A.B. Kohn, B. Nahir*, C.S. McFadden, and L.L. Moroz. 2006. Complete DNA sequence of the mitochondrial genome of the sea-slug,Aplysia californica: Conservation of the gene order in Euthyneura. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 38: 459-469. [abstract]

Collins, A.G., P. Cartwright, C.S. McFadden, and B. Schierwater. 2005. Phylogenetic context and basal metazoan model systems. Integr. Comp. Biol.45: 585-594.

van Hecke, J.R., K.K. Karukstis, F.S. Wettack, C.S. McFadden, and R.C. Haskell. 2004. The interdisciplinary laboratory: an integration of chemistry, biology, and physics. pp. 21-22 in Kauffman, L., and J. Stocks (eds), Reinvigorating the Undergraduate Experience: Successful Models Supported by NSF’s AIRE/RAIRE Program. Council on Undergraduate Research, Washington, D.C.

McFadden, C.S., I. D. Tullis*, M. B. Hutchinson*, K. Winner*, and J. A. Sohm*. 2004. Variation in coding (NADH dehydrogenase subunits 2, 3 and 6) and non-coding intergenic spacer regions of the mitochondrial genome in Octocorallia (Cnidaria: Anthozoa). Marine Biotechnology 6: 516-526. [articleErratum (Mar. Biotechnol. 4: 405-406)]

McFadden, C.S., and M.B. Hutchinson*. 2004. Molecular evidence for the hybrid origin of species in the soft coral genus Alcyonium (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Octocorallia). Molecular Ecology 13: 1495-1505.

Sánchez, J.A., C.S. McFadden, S.C. France, and H.R. Lasker. 2003. Phylogenetic analyses of shallow-water Caribbean octocorals. Marine Biol.142: 975-987. [abstract]

McFadden, C.S., and F.G. Hochberg. 2003. Biology and taxonomy of encrusting alcyoniid soft corals in the northeastern Pacific Ocean with descriptions of two new genera (Cnidaria, Anthozoa, Octocorallia). Invert. Biol. 122[2]: 93-113. [abstract]

Van Hecke, G.R., K.K. Karukstis, R.C. Haskell, C.S. McFadden, and F.S. Wettack. 2002. An integration of chemistry, biology, and physics: The interdisciplinary laboratory. J. Chem. Educ79: 837-844. [abstract]

McFadden, C.S., R.M. Donahue*, B.K. Hadland*, and R. Weston*. 2001. A molecular phylogenetic analysis of reproductive trait evolution in the soft coral genus AlcyoniumEvolution 55: 29-42. [abstract]

McFadden, C.S. 1999. Genetic and taxonomic relationships between Northeastern Atlantic and Mediterranean populations of the soft coralAlcyonium coralloidesMarine Biology 133: 171-184. [abstract]

McFadden, C.S., R. K. Grosberg, B. B. Cameron, D. P. Karlton*, and D. Secord. 1997. Genetic relationships within and between solitary and clonal forms of the sea anemone Anthopleura elegantissima revisited: Evidence for the existence of two species. Marine Biology 128: 127-139. [abstract]

McFadden, C.S. 1997. Contributions of sexual and asexual reproduction to population structure in the clonal soft coral, Alcyonium rudyiEvolution 51: 112-126. [article]

McFadden, C.S., and K. Y. Aydin*. 1996. Spatial autocorrelation analysis of small-scale genetic structure in a clonal soft coral with limited larval dispersal. Marine Biology 126: 215-224.

McFadden, C.S. 1991. A comparative demographic analysis of clonal reproduction in a temperate soft coral. Ecology 72: 1849-1866. [article]

McFadden, C.S. 1986. Colony fission increases particle capture rates of a soft coral: advantages of being a small colony. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 103: 1-20.

McFadden, C.S. 1986. Laboratory evidence for a size refuge in competitive interactions between the hydroids Hydractinia echinata (Flemming) andPodocoryne carnea (Sars). Biol. Bull. 171: 161-174.

McFadden, C.S., M.J. McFarland, and L.W. Buss. 1984. Biology of Hydractiniid hydroids. 1: Colony ontogeny in Hydractinia echinata (Flemming). Biol. Bull. 166: 54-67.

Buss, L. W., C.S. McFadden, and D.R. Keene. 1984. Biology of Hydractiniid hydroids. 2: Histocompatibility effector system/competitive mechanism mediated by nematocyst discharge. Biol. Bull67: 139-158.

*HMC student