June 25, 2021
Coral reefs are the world’s most diverse marine habitats, often referred to as “the rainforests of the sea.” But how many species live on coral reefs? In truth, we simply don’t know: it’s estimated that as many as 90% of the species inhabiting our oceans are still “unknown to science.” Most of these are small organisms that are difficult to detect and collect, but many of the largest, most conspicuous animals on shallow-water coral reefs—including the corals themselves—also remain undescribed and unnamed. Catherine McFadden's research focuses on “the species problem” in corals, and she'll discuss what a species is, how we distinguish species from one another, why it’s a difficult problem in corals, and why it matters. By using the latest technologies in DNA sequencing and microscopy to distinguish species, we’re learning that corals and many of the other organisms that live with and depend on them are far more unique than previously realized.
Catherine McFadden is the Vivian and D. Kenneth Baker Professor of Biology at Harvey Mudd College. She received her B.S. in biology from Yale University in 1982 and PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in 1988. She came to HMC in 1991 as a founding member of the Department of Biology. She is currently a research associate of the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) and the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and has held past research associate positions at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (Australia) and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center (Netherlands). Her work focuses on the biodiversity and evolutionary relationships of marine invertebrates, primarily soft corals and sea fans. When not in the lab or field working on corals she enjoys international travel, hiking and birding, and has combined those pursuits to see about 4,700 species of birds (so far).
Contact Carissa Saugstad for Zoom meeting information.