Martha J. Powell

ProfessorPhone: (205) 348-9017


Martha Powell received a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1974. She was appointed Professor at the University of Alabama in 1997. Prior to joining the University of Alabama she was a faculty member at James Madison University and at Miami University.

Research Interests

My research focuses on the biology of zoosporic fungi, especially Chytridiomycota.
In our research we use cell biological, microscopic, molecular, ecological and systematic approaches to understand relationships of these organisms, how their zoospores function, and what their roles are in the environment.  A central focus to all of this research is the discovery and description of new organisms.

We explore answers to a range of questions.  How does adaptation to soil versus aquatic habitats drive speciation?  What are the mechanisms zoospores use to detect and respond to environmental clues, including light and nutrition? What are the cellular processes involved in the attachment of motile spores to hosts and substrates once suitable substrates are detected? How have these process evolved among these organisms? How can this information reveal new understandings of systematic relationships among protista and fungi? How can we detect the distribution of Chytridiomycota in the environment?


Selected Publications

Blackwell, W.J., P.M. Letcher, and M.J. Powell 2013. An Oomycete parasitizing algae occurring on dorsal shells of turtles. Phytologia 95: 34-41.

Letcher, P.M., S. Lopez, R. Schmieder, P.A. Lee, C. Behnke, M. J. Powell, and R.C. McBride. 2013. Characterization of Amoeboaphelidium protococcarum, an algal parasite new to the Cryptomycota isolated from an outdoor algae pond used for the production of biofuel. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56232.

Powell, M.J., P.M. Letcher, and J.E. Longcore. 2013. Pseudorhizidium is a new genus with distinct zoospore ultrastructure in the order Chytridiales. Mycologia doi:10.3852/12-269

Blackwell, W.H., P.M. Letcher, and M.J. Powell. 2012. Synopsis of Obelidium (Chytridiomycota) Phytologia 94 (1): 103-117.

Lefevre, E., P.M. Letcher., and M. J. Powell. 2012. Temporal variation of the small eukaryotic community in two freshwater lakes: Emphasis on the zoosporic fungal community. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 67: 91-105.

Letcher, P.M. and M.J. Powell. 2012. A taxonomic summary and revision of Rhizophydium (Rhizophydiales, Chytridiomycota). Zoosporic Research Institute. No. 1. Imprint Tuscaloosa, AL: University Printing, The University of Alabama. 216 pgs. ISBN: 978-0-615-66279-4.

Letcher, P.M., M.J. Powell, and K. Picard. 2012. Zoospore ultrastructure and phylogenetic position of Phlyctochytrium aureliae Ajello is revealed (Chytridiaceae, Chytridiales, Chytridiomycota). Mycologia 104: 410-418.

Letcher, P.M., C.G. Vélez, S. Schultz, and M.J. Powell. 2012. New taxa are delineated in Alphamycetaceae (Rhizophydiales, Chytridiomycota). Nova Hedwigia: 94: 6-29.

Powell, M.J. and P.M. Letcher. 2012. From Zoospores to Molecules: The evolution and systematics of Chytridiomycota. In: Systematics and Evolution of Fungi: Morphological and Molecular Approaches ( J.K. Misra, J.P. Tewari and S.K. Deshmukh.) pgs. 29-54. ISBN 978-1-57808-723-5

Simmons, D.R., P.M. Letcher, M.J. Powell, and J.E. Longcore. 2012. Alogomyces tanneri gen. et sp. nov., a chytrid in Lobulomycetales from horse manure. Mycologia 104: 157-163.

Blackwell, W.H., P.M. Letcher, M.J. Powell, C.G. Vélez. 2011. The occurrence of Blyttiomyces spinulosus in Alabama and Argentina, and comments on the genus Blyttiomyces (Chytridiomycota). Phytologia 93(3): 304-315.

Powell, M.J., P.M. Letcher, and J.E. Longcore. 2011. Operculomyces is a new genus in the order Rhizophydiales. Mycologia 103:854-862.

Vélez, C.G., P.M. Letcher, S. Schultz, M.J. Powell, P.F. Churchill. 2011. Molecular phylogenetic and zoospore ultrastructural analyses of Chytridum olla establish the limits of a monophyletic Chytridales. Mycologia 103: 118-130.