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)

  • Quattrini AM, Faircloth B, Dueñas L, Bridge T, Brugler M, Calixto-Botía I, DeLeo D, Forêt S, Herrera S, Lee S, Miller D, Prada C, Rádis-Baptista G, Ramírez-Portilla C, Sánchez J, Rodríguez E, McFadden CS (2018) Universal target-enrichment baits for anthozoan (Cnidaria) phylogenomics: new approaches to long-standing problems. Molecular Ecology Resources 18: 281-295.
  • Benayahu Y, Ofwegen LP van, Dai C-F, Jeng M-S, Soong K, Shlagman A, Du SW*, Hong P*, Imam NH*, Chung A*, Wu T*, McFadden CS (2018) The octocorals of Dongsha Atoll (South China Sea): an iterative approach to species identification using classical taxonomy and DNA barcodes. Zoological Studies 57: 50.
  • McFadden CS, Gonzalez A, Imada R*, Hong P*, Shi S*, Ekins M, Benayahu Y (2019) Molecular operational taxonomic units reveal regional endemism in the Indo-Pacific octocoral family Xeniidae. Journal of Biogeography 46: 992-1006. doi: 10.1111/jbi.13543.
  • Quattrini AM, Wu T*, Soong K, Jeng M-S, Benayahu Y, McFadden CS (2019) A next generation approach to species delimitation reveals the role of hybridization in a cryptic species complex of corals. BMC Evolutionary Biology 19: 116.
  • Maloney KN, Botts R, Davis T, Okada B*, Maloney EM, Leber CA, Alvarado O, Brayton C*, Caraballo M, Chari J, Chicoine B, Crompton JC*, Davis S, Gromek SM, Kurnianda V, Quach K*, Samples RM, Shieh V*, Sultana C*, Tanaka J, Dorrestein PC, Balunas MJ, McFadden CS (2020) Cryptic species account for the seemingly idiosyncratic secondary metabolism of Sarcophyton glaucum specimens collected in Palau. Journal of Natural Products,
  • Quattrini AM, Rodríguez E, Faircloth BC, Cowman P, Brugler MR, Farfan G, Hellberg ME, Kitahara MV, Morrison CL, Paz-García DA, Reimer JD, McFadden CS (2020) Paleoclimate ocean conditions shaped diversification of coral skeletal composition through deep time. Nature Ecology & Evolution 4: 1531-1538,
  • Erickson KL*, Pentico A*, Quattrini AM, McFadden CS (2020) New approaches to species delimitation and population structure of anthozoans: two case studies of octocorals using ultraconserved elements and exons. Molecular Ecology Resources, doi:10.1111/1755‐0998.13241
  • Cowman PF, Quattrini AM, Bridge TCL, Grinblat M, TE Roberts, McFadden CS, Miller D, Baird A (2020) An enhanced target-enrichment baitset for Hexacorallia provides phylogenomic resolution of the staghorn corals (Acroporidae) and close relatives. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution 153: 106944
  • Untiedt CB, Quattrini AM, McFadden CS, Alderslade PA, Burridge CP (2021) Phylogenetic relationships within Chrysogorgia (Alcyonacea: Octocorallia), a morphologically diverse genus of octocoral, revealed using a target enrichment approach. Frontiers in Marine Science 7: 599984.
  • McFadden CS, Quattrini AM, Brugler MR, Cowman PC, Dueñas LF, Kitahara MV, Paz-García DA, Reimer JD, Rodríguez E (2021) Phylogenomics, origin and diversification of anthozoans (Phylum Cnidaria). Systematic Biology, doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syaa103

Complete Publication List