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James H. Marden

James H. Marden

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Professor of Biology, &

Assoc. Director, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

201 Huck Life Sciences Bldg
410 Mueller Bldg

University Park, PA 16802
Phone: (814)863-3842
Lab Address: 410 Mueller
Lab Phone: 863-1384 (Mueller Office); 863-2957 (Lab)


  1. Ph.D., University of Vermont, 1988
  2. M.S., University of Vermont, 1984
  3. B.S., University of Miami, 1981

Postdoc Training

  1. Brown University; Univ. Texas, Austin, 1988 - 1990

Honors and Awards

  1. Strickland Memorial Distinguished Lecturer, University of Alberta, 2010
  2. Bellis Award, Penn State Intercollege Graduate Program in Ecology, 2009
  3. Plenary lecture, CNRS Institute, Paris, 2008
  4. Graduate student’s distinguished speaker, Dept. of Entomology, Univ. of Florida, 2006
  5. National Science Foundation Career Development Award, 1997
  6. American Society of Naturalists Young Investigator Award, 1990

Research Interests

Functional genomics, Biomechanics, Physiology, Ecology, and Evolution

In the most general terms, I am interested in how organisms work, and why they work that way. I investigate   physiological mechanisms, ecological and historical reasons why particular physiological mechanisms have evolved, and how physiological variation within species affects their ecology. I have worked primarily with insects because they are readily available, fantastically diverse, and ecologically/economically important.  I've recently begun to work also on plants, with a particular interest in allelic variation in the pathogen resistance genes of tropical trees.

Projects presently underway in my laboratory primarily involve a long-running study of genetic variation underlying traits affecting flight, dispersal, life history, and eco-evolutionary dynamics of a butterfly (Melitaea cinxia) that is a model system for species living in patchy populations.  Much of this work focuses on variation with the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) pathway and phenotypic differences in larval growth, tracheal development, metabolism and aging.

In another collaborative project we are using the 50 Hectare Forest Dynamics Plot in Panama to examine how local population size affects allelic diversity of pathogen resistance genes of trees, and how that in turn affects co-susceptibility to disease and negative density dependent population dynamics.  Results from our work on wild tropical trees led to a collaboration to improve disease resistance in cacao.



Selected Publications

Marden, J.H., Mangan, S.A., Peterson, M., Wafula, E., Fescemyer, H.W., Der, J., dePamphilis, C.W. and Comita, L.S. (2017), Ecological genomics of tropical trees: how local population size and allelic diversity of resistance genes relate to immune responses, co-susceptibility to pathogens, and negative density dependence. Molecular Ecology, in press. doi:10.1111/mec.13999

Liu J, Lemonds T, Marden JH, Popadić, A. 2016. A pathway analysis of melanin patterning in a hemimetabolous insect. Genetics, 203(1): 403-13.

Medved V, Marden JH, Fescemyer HW, Der J, Mahfooz N, Popadić A. 2015. Origin and diversification of wings: insights from a neopteran insect.   PNAS 112(52), 15946–15951.

Teller, BJ, Marden, JH, Shea, K. 2015. Covariation in abscission force and terminal velocity of wind‐borne sibling seeds alters long distance dispersal projections. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6: 593–599, doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.12336.

Portman S., Kariyat R., Johnston M., Stephenson A., Marden, J.H.  2015. Cascading effects of host plant inbreeding on the larval growth, muscle molecular composition, and flight capacity of an adult herbivorous insect.  Functional Ecology 29: 328–337 DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12358.

Padilla, D., Swalla, B., Daniel, T., Dickinson, P., Grunbaum, D., Hayashi, C., Manahan, D., Marden, J.H., Tsukimura, B. 2014. Addressing Grand Challenges In Organismal Biology - The Need For Synthesis.  Biosciences 64: 1178–1187.

Peterson, M., Malloy, J., Buonaccorsi, V., Marden, J.H. 2014. Teaching RNAseq at undergraduate institutions: A tutorial and R package from the Genome  Consortium for Active Teaching.  CourseSource, Vol 2.

Warren I.A., Vera J.C., Johns A., Zinna R., Marden J.H., Emlen D.J., Dworkin I. and Lavine, L.C. 2014. Insights into the development and evolution of exaggerated traits using de novo transcriptomes of two species of horned scarab beetles. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 20;9(2):e88364.

Marden, J.H. 2013. Nature's inordinate fondness for metabolic enzymes: why metabolic enzyme loci are so frequently targets of selection. Molecular Ecology 22: 5743–5764.

Marden, J.H. 2013.  Reply to “Comment on Marden (2013) regarding the interpretation of the earliest trace fossil of a winged insect.” Evolution DOI: 10.1111/evo.12093.

Marden, J.H., Fescemyer, H.W., Schilder, R.J., Doerfler, W.R., Wheat, C.W. 2013. Genetic variation in HIF signaling underlies quantitative variation in physiological and life history traits within lowland butterfly populations. Evolution 67, 1105–1115. .

Fescemyer HW, Sandoya GV, Gill TA, Ozkan S, Marden JH, Luthe DS. 2013. Maize toxin degrades peritrophic matrix proteins and stimulates compensatory transcriptome responses in fall armyworm midgut. Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 43(3):280-91. doi: 10.1016/j.ibmb.2012.12.008.

Marden, J.H. 2013. Reanalysis and experimental evidence indicates that the earliest trace fossil of a winged insect was a surface-skimming neopteran. Evolution. 67(1): 274-80.