Justin S. McAlister

Biology Department
Director, Environmental Studies

Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Fields: Marine and Invertebrate Biology, Oceanography

Email: jmcalist@holycross.edu
Office Phone: 508-793-3417
Office: Swords 232
Lab:  Swords 216
PO Box:
Office Hours:



  • Marine Biology
  • Invertebrate Biology
  • Oceanography
  • Introduction to Biology 2 - Mechanistic Organismal Biology
  • Introduction to Biology 3 - Biological Diversity and Ecology


My research interests sit at the interface of functional and population biology and center on three broad questions:

  • How do organisms respond to environmental change?
  • How much variation exists for these responses?
  • How come organisms respond in the way(s) that they do? 

My work is empirical, uses integrative and comparative approaches, occurs in the lab and the field, and I focus primarily on marine invertebrates and their larvae.

Educational Opportunities in the Marine Sciences

I have strong connections with a number of marine field stations and programs. I encourage students to check out opportunities available at the following institutions:

Please contact me if you have specific interest in the educational and/or research internship programs offered by any of these institutions, or if you're generally interested in off-campus marine education and research opportunities and would like some suggestions.


Hodin J., Heyland A, Mercier A, Pernet B, Cohen DL, Hamel J-F, Allen JD, McAlister JS, Byrne M, Cisternas P, George SB. 2019. Culturing echinoderm larvae through metamorphosis. Chapter 6 in Foltz K, Hamdoun A (eds.). Methods in Cell Biology 150 - Echinoderms. Part A: Procurement, experimental embryology and classroom approaches. Elsevier: Oxford, UK GET PDF

McAlister JS, Miner BG. 2018. Phenotypic plasticity of feeding structures in marine invertebrate larvae. InEvolutionary Ecology of Marine Invertebrate Larvae, Eds. T. Carrier, A. Reitzel, A. Heyland. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198786962.003.0008 GET PDF

Marshall D, McAlister JS, Reitzel AM. 2018. Evolutionary ecology of parental investment and larval diversity. InEvolutionary Ecology of Marine Invertebrate Larvae, Eds. T. Carrier, A. Reitzel, A. Heyland. Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198786962.003.0003 GET PDF

Eliseba García, Sabrina Clemente, Catasia López, Justin S. McAlister, José Carlos Hernández.  Ocean warming modulates the effects of limited food availability on Paracentrotus lividus larval development.  Marine Biology (2015) 162:1463–1472. GET PDF

McAlister, J.S. and A.L. Moran. 2013. Effects of variation in egg energy and exogenous food on larval development in congeneric sea urchins. Marine Ecology Progress Series 490: 155-167.  http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v490/p155-167/

Moran, A.L., McAlister, J.S., and E.A.G. Whitehill. 2013. Eggs as energy: revisiting the scaling of egg size and energetic content among Echinoderms. Biological Bulletin 224: 184-191. GET PDF

McAlister, J.S. and A.L. Moran. 2012. Relationships among egg size, composition, and energy: A comparative study of geminate sea urchins. PLoSONE 7(7): e41599. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041599. GET PDF

Moran, A.L. and J.S. McAlister. 2009. Egg size as a life history character of marine invertebrates: Is it all it’s cracked up to be? Biological Bulletin 216: 226-242.  GET PDF

McAlister, J.S. 2008. Evolutionary responses to environmental heterogeneity in Central American echinoid larvae: plastic versus constant phenotypes. Evolution 62(6): 1358-1372.   GET PDF

McAlister, J.S. 2007. Egg size and the evolution of plasticity in larvae of the echinoid genus Strongylocentrotus. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 352: 306-316.   GET PDF

Allen, J.D. and J.S. McAlister. 2007. Testing rates of planktonic versus benthic predation of larvae in the field. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 347: 77-87.  GET PDF

Podolsky, R.D. and J.S. McAlister. 2005. Developmental plasticity in Macrophiothrix brittlestars: are morphologically convergent larvae also convergently plastic? Biological Bulletin 209(2): 127-138.   GET PDF

Marko, P.B., S.C. Lee, A.M. Rice, J.M. Gramling, T.M. Fitzhenry, J.S. McAlister, G.R. Harper, and A.L. Moran. 2004. Mislabelling of a depleted reef fish. Nature 430: 309-310.   GET PDF

McAlister, J.S. and S.E. Stancyk. 2003. Effects of variable water motion on regeneration of Hemipholis elongata (Echinodermata: Ophiuroidea). Invertebrate Biology 122(2): 166-176.  GET PDF