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 and Professional Experience

  • B.S., Yale University
  • PhD, 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


  • Core Laboratory: Synthetic Biology
  • 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 use of genomic data to construct a molecular phylogeny for the Cnidarian sub-class Anthozoa (corals and sea anemones) as part of the NSF-funded Anthozoan UCEs Project.

Selected Recent Publications

(* HMC student co-authors)

McFadden CS, Reynolds AM*, Janes MP (2014) DNA barcoding of xeniid soft corals (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea: Xeniidae) from Indonesia: species richness and phylogenetic relationships. Systematics & Biodiversity 12: 247-257.

Halàsz A, Reynolds AM*, McFadden CS, Toonen RJ, Benayahu Y. (2014) Can polyp pulsation be the key to species boundaries in the genus Ovabunda (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea: Xeniidae)? Hydrobiologia doi: 10.1007/s10750-014-2106-z

McFadden CS, Brown AS*, Brayton C*, Hunt CB*, Ofwegen LP van (2014) Application of DNA barcoding to biodiversity studies of shallow-water octocorals: molecular proxies agree with morphological estimates of species richness in Palau. Coral Reefs 33: 275-286.

Reijnen BT, McFadden CS, Hermanlimiento YT, Ofwegen LP van (2014) A molecular and morphological exploration of the generic boundaries in the family Melithaeidae (Coelenterata: Octocorallia) and its taxonomic consequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 70: 383-401.

McFadden CS, Ofwegen LP van (2013) Molecular phylogenetic evidence supports a new family of octocorals and a new genus of Alcyoniidae (Octocorallia: Alcyonacea). ZooKeys 346: 59-83.

Brockman SA*, McFadden CS (2012) The mitochondrial genome of Paraminabea aldersladei (Cnidaria: Anthozoa: Octocorallia) supports intramolecular recombination as the primary mechanism of gene rearrangement in octocoral mitochondrial genomes. Genome Biology and Evolution 4: 882-894.

McFadden CS, Ofwegen LP van (2012) Stoloniferous octocorals (Anthozoa, Octocorallia) from South Africa, with descriptions of a new family of Alcyonacea, a new genus of Clavulariidae, and a new species of Cornularia (Cornulariidae). Invertebrate Systematics 26: 331-356.

McFadden CS, Ofwegen LP van (2012) A revision of the soft coral genus, Eunephthya Verrill, 1869 (Anthozoa: Octocorallia: Nephtheidae), with a description of four new species from South Africa. Zootaxa 3485: 1-25.

McFadden CS, Benayahu Y, Pante E, Thoma JN, Nevarez PA*, France SC (2011) Limitations of mitochondrial gene barcoding in Octocorallia. Molecular Ecology Resources 11: 19-31.

McFadden CS, Sánchez JA, France SC (2010) Molecular phylogenetic insights into the evolution of Octocorallia: a review. Integrative and Comparative Biology 50: 389-410.

McFadden CS, Ofwegen LP van, Beckman EJ*, Benayahu Y, Alderslade P (2009) Molecular systematics of the speciose Indo-Pacific soft coral genus, Sinularia (Anthozoa: Octocorallia). Invertebrate Biology 128: 303-323.

McFadden CS, France SC, Sánchez JA, Alderslade P (2006) A molecular phylogenetic analysis of the Octocorallia (Coelenterata: Anthozoa) based on mitochondrial protein-coding sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41: 513-527.

Complete Publication List