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Damhnait McHugh

Damhnait McHugh

Raab Family Chair and Professor of Biology
Biology, 225 Ho Science Center
p 315-228-7339


BS University College, Galway, Ireland 1983; MS University of Victoria, Canada 1987; PhD U.C. Santa Cruz 1994

Teaching Experience

Assistant Professor, Harvard University


Evolutionary biology, invertebrate zoology


Metazoan phylogeny, life history, evolution of marine invertebrates, evolution of development, deep-sea hot vent biogeography, molecular and morphological systematics of invertebrate groups


My teaching interests span a wide variety of courses that share a common thread of evolution (see list below). Like Theodosius Dobzhansky, I believe that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

In all my courses, I like to highlight the relevance of biology in our everyday lives, whether it’s understanding the genetic basis for a human disease, using phylogenetic analysis to evaluate biodiversity, or debating the issue of human cloning. I also really enjoy working with students in the lab. Students in our Genetics course spend several weeks identifying and characterizing genetic mutations in yeast. Animal Evolution students get to collaborate with students in Introductory Biology in trying to understand how segmentation evolved in animals like arthropods and annelids; and, in my CORE 109 course on Genes and Human Fate, students analyze genetic variation of human populations and what it tells us about ancient human migrations.

  • BIOL 203 Genetics 
  • BIOL 452 Animal Evolution 
  • BIOL 478 Animal Systematics and Phylogeny 
  • CORE 109 Genes and Human Fate


For additional publications, see my research page.
  • "Annelid phylogeny and the status of Sipuncula and Echiura." (BMC Evolutionary Biology, 2007)
  • "Mitochondrial genome and nuclear sequence data support Myzostomida as part of the annelid radiation." (Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2007)
  • "Molecular analyses indicate gene flow among populations of Paralvinella pandorae, a polychaete annelid endemic to hydrothermal vents of the northeast Pacific." (Marine Ecology, 2005)
  • "Molecular systematics of polychaetes (Annelida)." (Hydrobiologia, 2005)
  • "Do life history traits account for diversity of polychaete annelids?" (Invertebrate Biology, 2002)
  • "Unsegmented annelids? Possible origins of four Lophotrochozoan worm taxa." (American Zoologist, 2002)
  • "Molecular phylogeny of the Annelida," (Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2000)
  • "Myzostomida: a link between trochozoans and flatworms?" (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 2000)
  • "Phylogeny of the Annelida: Siddall et. al. (1998) rebutted," (Cladistics, 1999)
  • "Systematization of the Annelida: different approaches." (Hydrobiologia, 1999)
  • "Deciphering metazoan phylogeny: The need for additional molecular data." (American Zoologist, 1998)
  • "A biogeographical perspective of the deep-sea hydrothermal vent fauna." (Advances in Marine Biology, 1998)
  • "Life history evolution of marine invertebrates: new views from phylogenetic systematics." (Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 1998)
  • "Molecular evidence that echiurans and pogonophorans are derived annelids." (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A., 1997)

Professional Experience

2009 - present: Director, Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, Colgate University
2005 - 2008: Chair, Department of Biology, Colgate University
2003 - 2006: Associate Editor, Evolution
2001 - 2003: Editor, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
1998 - present: Museum Associate, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
1994 - 1996: NSF/Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Evolution, Section of Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University. Advisor: Richard G. Harrison
1993: Predoctoral Fellow, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Advisor: Kristian Fauchald
1987 - 1988: Editorial Assistant, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Victoria, Canada


NSF-Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship (1994–1998); NSF–DEB Systematic Biology (1998–2001); NSF-RCSE (1997); NSF-REU Supplement (1999); NSF-DBI-MUE (1999); NSF-BE: GENOME-ENABLE ENVIR SCI&EN (2001–2007); G. Kirk Raab '59 Chair in Biology (2006–2009); Colgate Research Council, Picker Research Fellowship (2007–2008); Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, Two-Year Award (2008-2010); Director, Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute (2009–)


Learn about my work and research.