Catherine Drew Harvell

Professor Emerita


I am a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. I received my PhD from University of Washington in 1985. My research on host-pathogen interactions and the sustainability of marine ecosystems has taken me from the reefs of Mexico, Indonesia, and Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest. The current focus of my laboratory group is on sustainable marine biodiversity and the ecology of host-pathogen interactions in a changing ocean. A sub-theme of this work includes evaluating the impacts of a warming climate on marine ecosystems. My analyses and papers have led to the now widespread acceptance that diseases are restructuring marine ecosystems, from very climate-sensitive coral reef ecosystems to rocky temperate shores. Projects in my lab involve multi-disciplinary, cross-scale approaches, including field studies, remote sensing, genetic and transcriptomics, chemical analyses, and mathematical modeling. I lead an NSF Research Coordination Network on Ecology of Infectious Marine Disease. I am a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, a winner of the Society of American Naturalists Jasper Loftus-Hills Award, and a lead author of the oceans chapter in the U.S. Climate Change Assessment. My writing appears in The New York Times, The Hill and in over 140 academic articles in journals such as ScienceNature, and Ecology. I recently published my first book, A Sea of Glass.  At Cornell, my focus is to teach undergraduate courses in Marine Ecology and Invertebrate Biology. My primary courses are Marine Ecosystem Sustainability and Invertebrate Biology (taught on campus and at Friday Harbor Labs), and I co-teach Conservation Oceanography in Hawaii. For graduate teaching, I teach an every other fall Invertebrate Biology seminar and participate regularly in a graduate journal club, Ecology of infectious Disease. I do regular guest lectures in Oceanography, Conservation Medicine (vet college), and Ecology and Environment.

Research Focus

My research is motivated by several general interests: (1) the evolution of chemical and structural resistance, (2) Invertebrate microbial interactions, particularly focussing on microbial pathogens, 3) Impacts of Climate change on marine communities.

Our current research is focused on the form, function, and evolution of defenses of marine invertebrates against their predators and competitors. Using a primarily experimental approach, I and my students are working on projects in temperate and tropical oceans. Our current work is focused on chemical and structural mechanisms of disease resistance in Caribbean gorgonian corals. These soft corals are heavily endowed with biologically active compounds that are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and deterrent to fish and some invertebrate predators. My particular focus now is on mechanisms of disease resistance to a fungal pathogen of sea fans. The fungal pathogen Aspergillus sydowii is currently affecting sea fans (Gorgonia ventalina and G. flabellum) throughout the Caribbean. The disease causes variable-sized lesions and even colony death at some sites. In the Bahamas and Florida Keys, many monitored lesions enter long-term stasis (> 12 months) suggesting the possibility of effective resistance against the fungus within colonies. At some sites in the Florida Keys and San Salvador Bahamas colonies are undergoing substantial mortality from the disease. The chemical extracts of the two species of sea fan are fungi-static, leading us into an investigation of the chemical mechanisms of disease resistance (collaboration with Advion Biosciences).


  • Ochre star mortality during the 2014 wasting disease epizootic: role of population size structure and temperature. Eisenlord M.E., Groner M.L., Yoshioka R.M., Elliott J., Maynard J., Fradkin S., Turner M., Pyne K., Rivlin N., van Hooidonk R., & Harvell C.D. 2016. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371(1689) DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0212
  • Reserves as tools for alleviating impacts of marine disease. Lamb J.B., Wenger A.S., Devlin M.J., Ceccarelli D.M., Williamson D.H., & Bette L Willis B.L. 2016. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371(1689) DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0210
  • Managing marine disease emergencies in an era of rapid change. Groner M.L., Maynard J., Breyta R., Carnegie R.B., Dobson A., Friedman C.S., Froelich B., Garren M., Gulland F.M.D., Heron S.F., Noble R.T., Revie C.W., Shields J.D., Vanderstichel R., Weil E., Wyllie-Echeverria S., & Harvell C.D. 2016. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371(1689) DOI:10.1098/rstb.2015.0364
  • Improving marine disease surveillance through sea temperature monitoring, outlooks and projections. Maynard J., van Hooidonk R., Harvell C.D., Eakin C.M., Liu G., Willis B.L., Williams G.J., Groner M.L., Dobson A., Heron S.F., Glenn R., Reardon K., & Jeffrey D. Shields J.D. 2016. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371(1689) DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0208
  • Linking sewage pollution and water quality to spatial patterns of Porites lobata growth anomalies in Puako, Hawaii. Yoshioka R.M., Kim C.J.S., Tracy A.M., Most R., & Harvell C.D. 2016. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 104(1-2) DOI:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.01.002
  • Up in Arms: Immune and Nervous System Response to Sea Star Wasting Disease. Fuess L.E.,Eisenlord M.E., Closek C.J., Tracy A.M., Mauntz R., Gignoux-Wolfsohn S., Moritsch M.M., Yoshioka R.M., Burge C.A., Harvell C.D., Friedman C.S., Hewson I., Hershberger P.K., & S.B. Roberts. 2015. PLoS one, 10(7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133053
  • Emergency response for marine diseases. Groner M., Breyta R., Dobson A., Friedman C.S., Froelich B., Garren M., Gulland F., Maynard J., Weil E., Wyllie-Echeverria S., & C.D. Harvell. 2015. Science, 347(6227) DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6227.1210-a
  • Infectious Diseases Affect Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture Economics. Lafferty K.D., Harvell C.D., Conrad J.M., Friedman C.S., Kent M.L., Kuris A.M., Powell E.N., Rondeau D., & S.M. Saksida. 2015. Annual Review of Marine Science, 7 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010814-015646
  • Projections of climate conditions that increase coral disease susceptibility and pathogen abundance and virulence. Maynard J., van Hooidonk R., Eakin C.M., Puotinen M., Garren M., Williams., Heron S.F., Lamb J., Weil E., Willis B., & C.D. Harvell. 2015. Nature Climate Change, 5 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2625
  • Whole transcriptome analysis reveals changes in expression of immune-related genes during and after bleaching in a reef-building coral. Pinzon J.H., Kamel B., Burge C.A., Harvell C.D., Medina M.,  Weil E., & L.D. Mydlarz. 2015. Royal Society Open Science, 2(4) DOI: 10.1098/rsos.140214
  • Persistent shifts in Caribbean coral microbiota are linked to the 2010 warm thermal anomaly. Tracy A.M., Koren O., Douglas N., Weil E., & C.D. Harvell. 2015. Environmental Microbiology Reports, 7(3) DOI: 10.1111/1758-2229.12274
  • Climate Change Influences on Marine Infectious Diseases: Implications for Management and Society. Burge C.A., Eakin C.M., Friedman C.S., Froelich B, Hershberger P.K., Hofmann E.E., Petes L.E., Prager K.C., Weil E., Willis B.L., Ford S.E., & C.D. Harvell. 2014. Annual Review of Marine Science, 6 DOI: 10.1146/annurev-marine-010213-135029
  • Host demography influences the prevalence and severity of eelgrass wasting disease. Groner M.L.,Burge C.A., Couch C.S., Kim C.J.S., Siegmund G.F, Singhal S., Smoot S.C., Jarrell A., Gaydos J.K.,Harvell C.D., & S. Wyllie-Echeverria. 2014. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 108 DOI:10.3354/dao02709
  • Densovirus associated with sea-star wasting disease and mass mortality. Hewson I., Button J.B., Gudenkauf B.M., Miner B., Newton A.L., Gaydos J.K., Wynne J., Groves C.L., Hendler G., Murray M., Fradkin S., Breitbart M., Fahsbender E., Lafferty K.D., Kilpatrick A.M., Miner C.M., Raimondi P., Lahner L., Friedman C.S., Daniels S., Haulena  M., Marliave J., Burge C.A., Eisenlord M.E., & C.D. Harvell. 2014. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(48) DOI:10.1073/pnas.1416625111
  • Climate Change and Infectious Disease: From Evidence to a Predictive Framework. p Altizer S., Ostfeld R.S., Johnson P.T.J., Kutz S., & C.D. Harvell. 2013. Science, 314(514) DOI: 10.1126/science.1239401
  • Immune response of the Caribbean sea fan, G. ventalina, exposed to an Aplanochytrium parasite as revealed by transcriptome sequencing. Burge C.A., Mouchka, M.E., Harvell C.D., & S. Roberts. 2013. Frontiers in Physiology, DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00180
  • Special Issue Oceans and Humans Health: The Ecology of Marine Opportunists. Burge C.A., C.J.S. Kim, J.M. Lyles & C.D. Harvell. In press.  Microb Ecology, DOI 10.1007/s00248-013-0190-7
  • Temporal dynamics and plasticity in the cellular immune response of the sea fan coral, Gorgonia ventalina.pdf. Couch, C.S., E. Weil, C.D. Harvell. 2013. Marine Biology, DOI: 10.1007/s00227-013-2240-6


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