Clifford W. Morden

Associate Professor

Plant Molecular Systematics, Evolution, Population Genetics, Hybrid Plant Biology, Biogeography, Conservation Biology



St. John 602A


(808) 956-9636


(808) 956-3923

Research Interests

We use molecular approaches to conducted research addressing issues on the systematics of the native Hawaiian flora. Studies involve phylogenetic questions of species biogeography in the islands both in terms of from where they came from and how they are distributing among the islands. Studies utilize molecular markers to answer these questions, and the type of markers will depend upon the specific question being asked. For some, this is at the sequence level of either nuclear or chloroplastic DNA regions, while for others this is at the population level examining variable markers from RAPD, AFLP or microsatellite analyses. These latter studies are also then used to address questions about the genetic structure of populations, the interrelation of populations within and among islands, or the consequences of hybridization among sympatric species.

Also of importance in studying plants, especially in Hawaii, is the consequences of small population sizes. Hawaii is the "Endangered Species Capital of the United State" with over 300 endangered plant species and many others that are "species of concern" by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. As such, the opportunities to examine rare plant population genetics from many different perspectives are incredible. The species rarity may be a consequence of many different factors (breeding systems, habitat loss, alien pests, etc.), and theoretical implications of each may be examined resulting in management strategies that can have profound impacts on conservation efforts for these species.

Selected Publications

Morden, C. W. and A. S. Sherwood. 2002. Continued evolutionary surprises among dinoflagellates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, USA 99: 11558-11560.

Morden, C. W., D. Weniger, and D. E. Gardner. 2002. Phylogeny and biogeography of Pacific Rubus subg. Idaeobatus (Rosaceae) species: investigating the origin of the endemic Hawaiian raspberry R. macraei . Pacific Science 57: 181-197.

Howarth, D. G., D. E. Gardner, and C. W. Morden. 1997. Phylogeny of Rubus subgenus Idaeobatus (Rosaceae) and its implications toward colonization of the Hawaiian Islands. Systematic Botany 22: 433-441.

Population Genetics
Loeffler, W. F. and C. W. Morden. 2003. Genetic diversity and biogeography of the Hawaiian cordage plant, olona ( Touchardia latifolia ; Urticaceae), based on RAPD markers. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 31: 1323-1335.

Steiger, D. L., C. Nagai, P. H. Moore, C. W. Morden, R. V. Osgood, and R. Ming. 2002. AFLP analysis of genetic diversity within and among Coffea arabica cultivars. Theoretical and Applied Genetics 105: 209-215.

Rare Species Genetics
Kwon, J. A. and C. W. Morden. 2002. Population genetic structure of two rare tree species ( Colubrina oppositifolia and Alphitonia ponderosa , Rhamnaceae) from Hawaiian dry and mesic forests using RAPD markers. Molecular Ecology 11: 991-1001.

Morden, C. W. and W. Loeffler. 1999. Fragmentation and genetic differentiation among subpopulations of the endangered Hawaiian mint Haplostachys haplostachya (Lamiaceae). Molecular Ecology 8: 617-625.

Hybrid Species
Randell, R. A., D. G. Howarth, and C. W. Morden. 2004. Genetic analysis of natural hybrids between endemic and alien Rubus (Rosaceae) species in Hawai'i. Conservation Genetics 5: 217-230.

Caraway, V., G. D. Carr, and C. W. Morden. 2001. Assessment of hybridization and introgression in lava-colonizing Hawaiian Dubautia (Asteraceae: Madiinae) using RAPD markers. American Journal of Botany 88: 1688-1694.

Motley, T. J., and C. W. Morden. 2001. Utility of RAPD Markers in Evaluating the Status of the Hawaiian Tree Fern Cibotium ´ heleniae . Pacific Science 55: 145-155