College of Natural and Computational Sciences

Catherine Unabia, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of BiologyCatherine Unabia, Ph.D.

HPU Email:

Office Telephone: 808-236-7921  FAX: 808-236-5880

Office Location: 248 Hawaii Loa Campus

Assistant Researcher (1999-2000) University of Hawaii Pacific Biomedical  

Research Center Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Honolulu.

Postdoctoral Fellow (1996-1999), University of Hawaii Pacific Biomedical    

Research Center Kewalo Marine Laboratory, Honolulu.

Ph.D.  Zoology, Marine Invertebrate (1996).  University of Hawaii, Manoa.

M.S. Botanical Sciences (1984) University of Hawaii, Manoa. 


Unabia CRC.  2007.  Grazing interaction between Smaragdia bryanae   

(Gastropoda Neritidae) and the seargrass Halophila hawaiiana.  Invertebrate Biology: In revision.

Unabia, CRC and Hadfield, MG.  1999.  The role of bacteria in the settlement

and metamorphosis of the polychaete Hydroides elegans.  Marine Biology


Unabia, CRC, Huang, S, and Hadfield, MG.  1999.  Soluble and surface-

bound bacterial cues for settlement of the polychaete Hydroides elegans.  Am. Zool. 38:163A.

Unabia, CRC, Hagadone, MR, Hadfield, MG, Gu, X-Q, Lau, L and Tius, MA. 

1997. Bioactive marine isonitrile compounds from Hawaiian sponges as models for synthetic nontoxic antifoulant and antibiotic agents.  Pp. 3.30-3.36, in,  Proc. Office of Naval Research US-Pacific Rim Workshop on Emerging Nonmetallic Materials for the Marine Environment, Brady RF and Park Y eds.

Hadfield MG, Unabia, C, Smith, CM, Michael, TM.  1994.  Settlement       

preferences of the ubiquitous fouler   Hydroides elegans.  Pp. 65-74, in, Recent Developments in Biofouling Control, Fingerman M, Nagabushanam R and Sarojini R, eds., Oxford & IBH, New Delhi.

Unabia, CRC. 1992.  Endemic Hawaiian species radiation in the Neritidae. 

Pacific Science 46: 323.

Unabia, CRC. 1991.  Taxonomic affinities of Neritidae from scanning electron

microscopy of radular structure.  Pacific Science 45: 103.

Unabia, CRC. 1984.  Smaragdia (Gastropoda: Neritidae), a seagrass

animal. Pacific Science 34: 340.

Invited Papers:


Gordon Research Conference on Marine Natural Products, Ventura, Ca.   

1998,  “Surface-Microbe-Invertebrate Interactions in Marine Biofouling”.

3rd International Larval Biology Meeting, 1998, Symposium on Chemical

Ecology, “Signals from biofilms: larval settlement cues for Hydroides elegans” (w/ Paul VJ and Hadfield MG)


Chair, College of Natural Sciences Curriculum Committee

(Spring ’07 – present); member since Fall ’04

Chair, General Education Curriculum Subcommittee of the Undergraduate

Curriculum Committee (Fall ’06 – present); member since Fall ’05

Laboratory Policy and Procedures Committee (Fall ’06 – present)

            Board Member and Secretary, Reef Check Hawaii (Fall ’05 – present)

Courses Routinely Taught at HPU:

            BIOL 4030 - 4031           Cell and Molecular Biology and Laboratory

            BIOL 4040 - 4041           Environmental Microbiology and Laboratory

            BIOL 3020 - 3021           Plant Biology and Laboratory

            BIOL 2052                       General Biology

New Courses:

            BIOL  2170                     Ethnobotany: Plants and People (Gen Ed)

            NSCI 2100                      Biotechnology: Problems and Solutions (Gen Ed)

            BIOL 6170                      Larval Biology


Grants, Contracts and Awards:

2005-2007  Advances in Biotechnology Education Workshop;    Three week intensive summer workshop at University of Hawaii with stipends for participation and for student.        

2004   Grant from HPU Trustee’s Scholarly Endeavors Program, Culture of the Marine Cyanobacteria  Symploca Laeteviridis and Symploca hydnoides for bioprocess intensification of metabolite production.  F. David Horgen, Principal Investigator, (Co-investigator with F. David Horgen, Kristina Mojica).     

1995-1999  Department of Defense Center for Excellence in               

            Oceanographic Sciences, to Synthetic Technology Corp.

            Bioactive marine isonitrile compounds from Hawaiian sponges as models for synthetic nontoxic antifoulant and antibiotic agents. 

1991-1992.  Endemic groundsnails in Hawaiian natural area reserves.  Natural Area Reserves System, State of Hawaii Department  of Land and Natural Resources.

1990-1991   The mollusks of anchialine ponds.  Natural Area Reserves System, State of Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources.

Description of Research Interests:

Larval Biology, Chemical Ecology, Seagrass Communities, Marine Microbiology and Biotechnology, Molluscan Evolution and Systematics. 

Discovery of a seagrass species new to Hawaii led to the evaluation of this species as an invasive alien which might threaten the survival of our native Hawaiian seagrass ecosystem, including an endemic snail that feeds on the native seagrass. This presents research questions including whether the snail can feed, grow and reproduce on the new species, and if planktotropic veliger larvae settle on both species of seagrass.

I am also interested in how organisms interact with one another at the cell and molecular level, particularly cell-cell signaling and adhesion involving glycoprotein surface molecules and receptors.  My research has focused on the role of bacterial biofilms as signals for the settlement and metamorphosis of algae and larvae of marine invertebrates.  A practical application has been the development of antifouling strategies which prevent fouling by acting upon bacterial biofilms.  Glycoprotein signaling may also be important in the development of consortia of co-aggregating microbial species, such as members of the nitrogen or sulfur cycles and other components of a diverse microbial community essential for healthy aquatic ecosystems.  These concepts may prove useful in the development of sustainable, non-polluting aquaculture, bioremediation of coastal areas and wetlands using plants and associated microbes, or conservation of coral reefs and other endangered marine ecosystems.  To further investigate microbial interactions by experimental manipulation, marine microbes are being isolated, characterized and cultured.  Among microbes, cyanobacteria are especially interesting not only as primary producers, nitrogen fixers, and sources of bioactive natural products, but also because they build mats that structure shallow marine communities.  Little is known about their interactions with other organisms.  This diverse microbial collection is also available for natural products screening, and the culture of cyanobacteria as natural product sources and experimental models is underway.