Dr. Peter M. Letcher



Department of Biological Sciences
The University of Alabama
319 Biology, Box 870344
Tuscaloosa, AL USA 35487

Telephone: 205-348-5960
Fax: 205-348-1786

Current Position:
Adjunct Associate Professor
Associate Member of the Graduate Faculty
Post-Doctoral Assistant Research Scientist


B.S. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1994
M.S. James Madison University, 1996
Ph.D. The University of Alabama, 2003

Research Interests:

My research centers on systematics and taxonomy of Chytridiomycota (“chytrids”), the most basal lineage of true fungi. Chytrids have many roles in the environment: some parasitize algae, higher plants, animals, and other fungi; many are saprobic biodegraders of refractory substances such as chitin, keratin, cellulose, and pollen grains. Chytrids occur in aquatic and terrestrial habitats. I have collected soil and aquatic samples widely in the United States (20 states, including Alaska and Hawaii) and Australia ( New South Wales and Western Australia). With a network of research assistants I have also sampled in Central and South America (Panama, Argentina, Peru), the Pacific (New Zealand, Fiji, Bora Bora), Canada (Ontario and British Columbia), Europe (Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, France, Spain, Hungary, Austria, Russia), Asia (China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka), Africa (South Africa, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Morocco, Tunesia, Mauritius), the Caribbean (Costa Rica, Barbados, Grenada, Mustique, St. Lucia, Nevis, Tobago), the Antarctic, and the Canary Islands and Ascension Island. My soil sampling has been from diverse habitats such as boreal forests, temperate deciduous forests, sub tropical/tropical/cool temperate rainforests, deserts, volcanic craters, rainforest canopy detritus, and crevices in recent lava flows. My aquatic sampling has been not only from lakes, streams, and ponds, but also from high altitude wetlands, floodplains, lowland swamps, basket swamps, peat bogs, and coastal estuaries. Sampling for chytrids from a multitude of habitats worldwide has led to understandings of chytrid diversity, distribution, and abundance on a global scale.


My job is perhaps the best in the world. I am supported by the National Science Foundation and to accomplish my research I travel widely, see spectacular natural resources, collaborate with world-class scientists, and tell the world about chytrids. The results of my research are synthesized at the Zoosporic Research Institute (ZRI), an intellectual enterprise. ZRI collates research data concerned with locating, isolating, and culturing chytrids, their zoospore ultrastructural characteristics, and their molecular signatures. At The University of Alabama, we maintain a culture collection of approximately 400 chytrid isolates, examine their morphology with a Hitachi S2500 scanning electron microscope (SEM), zoospore ultrastructure with a Hitachi H7650 transmission electron microscope (TEM), and sequence their genes. The end results are production of hypothetical evolutionary lineages to understand relationships among these organisms, and descriptions of newly discovered chytrids.

Lab Website:

Click here to go to The University of Alabama chytrid lab website.


P. M. Letcher, M. J. Powell, D. J. S. Barr, P. F. Churchill, W. S. Wakefield, K. T. Picard. 2008. Rhizophlyctidales- a new order in Chytridiomycota. Mycological Research 112: 1031-1048.

 P. M. Letcher, C. G. Velez, M. E. Barrantes, M. J. Powell, P .F. Churchill, W. S. Wakefield. 2008. Ultrastructural and molecular analyses of Rhizophydiales (Chytridiomycota) isolates from North America and Argentina. Mycological Research 112: 759-782.

 P. M. Letcher, M. J. Powell, M. C. Viusent. 2008. Rediscovery of an unusual chytridiaceous fungus new to the order Rhizophydiales. Mycologia 100: 325-334.

Gleason, F. H., P. M. Letcher, and P. A. McGee. 2007. Some aerobic Blastocladiomycota and Chytridiomycota survive but cannot grow under anaerobic conditions. Australasian Mycologist 26: 57-64.

 James, T.Y., P. M. Letcher, J.E. Longcore, S.E. Mozley-Standridge, D. Porter, M. J. Powell, G.W. Griffith, and R. Vilgalys. 2006. A molecular phylogeny of the flagellated Fungi (Chytridiomycota) and description of a new phylum (Blastocladiomycota). Mycologia 98: 860-871.

 James, T.Y.,F. Kauff, C.L. Schoch, P.B. Matheny, V. Hofstetter, C.J. Cox, G. Celio, C. Gueidan, E. Fraker, J. Miadlikowska, H.T. Lumbsch, A. Rauhut, V. Reeb, A.E. Arnold, A. Amtoft, J.E. Stajich, K. Hosaka, G-H. Sung, D. Johnson, B. O’Rourke, M. Crockett, M. Binder, J.M. Curtis, J.C. Slot, Z. Wang, A.W. Wilson, A. Schüß ler, J.E. Longcore, K. O’Donnell, S. Mozley-Standridge, D. Porter, P.M. Letcher, M.J. Powell, J.W. Taylor, M.M. White, G.W. Griffith, D.R. Davies, R.A. Humber, J.B. Morton, J. Sugiyama, A.Y. Rossman, J.D. Rogers, D.H. Pfister, D. Hewitt, K. Hansen, S. Hambleton, R.A. Shoemaker, J. Kohlmeyer, B. Volkmann-Kohlmeyer, R.A. Spotts, M. Serdani, P.W. Crous, K.W. Hughes, K. Matsuura, E. Langer, G. Langer, W.A. Untereiner, R. Lücking, B. Büdel, D.M. Geiser, A. Aptroot, P. Diederich, I. Schmitt, M. Schultz, R. Yahr, D.S. Hibbett, F. Lutzoni, D.J. McLaughlin, J. W. Spatafora, and R. Vilgalys. 2006. Reconstructing the early evolution of Fungi using a six-gene phylogeny. Nature 443: 818-822.

 Blackwell, W.H., P.M. Letcher, and M.J. Powell. 2006. Thallus development and the systematics of Chytridiomycota: an additional developmental pattern represented by Podochytrium. Mycotaxon 97: 91-109.

Gleason, F.H., D.J. Midgley, P.M. Letcher, and P.M. McGee. 2006. Can soil Chytridiomycota survive and grow in different osmotic potentials? Mycological Research 110: 869-875.

 Midgley, D.J., P.A. McGee, and P. M. Letcher. 2006. Access to organic and insoluble sources of phosphorus varies among soil Chytridiomycota. Archives of Microbiology 186: 211-217.

 Letcher, P.M., M.J. Powell, P.F. Churchill, J.G. Chambers. 2006.Ultrastructural and molecular phylogenetic delineation of a new order, the Rhizophydiales (Chytridiomycota). Mycological Research 110: 898-915.

 Letcher, P.M., M.J. Powell, J.G. Chambers, J.E. Longcore, P.F. Churchill, and P.M. Harris. 2005. Ultrastructural and molecular delineation of the Chytridiaceae (Chytridiales). Canadian Journal of Botany 82: 1561-1573.

Gleason, F.H., P.M. Letcher, Z. Commandeur, C.E. Jeong, and P.A. McGee. 2005. The growth response of some Chytridiomycota to temperatures commonly observed in the soil. Mycological Research 109: 717-722.

 Commandeur, Z., P.M. Letcher, and P.A. McGee. 2005. Diversity of chytridiaceous fungi in a cropping soil. Australasian Mycologist 24: 1-6.

 Letcher, P.M. and M.J. Powell. 2005. Kappamyces, a new genus in the Chytridiales (Chytridiomycota). Nova Hedwigia 80: 115-133.

Letcher, P.M. and M.J. Powell. 2005. Phylogenetic position of Phlyctochytrium planicorne (Chytridiales, Chytridiomycota) based on zoospore ultrastructure and nuclear LSU sequence analysis. Nova Hedwigia 80: 134-146.

Gleason, F.H., P.M. Letcher & P.A. McGee. 2004. Some Chytridiomycota in soil recover from drying and high temperature. Mycological Research 108: 583-589.

Letcher, P.M., P.A. McGee, and M.J. Powell. 2004. Zoosporic fungi from soils of New South Wales. Australasian Mycologist 22: 99-115.

Letcher, P.M., P.A. McGee, and M.J. Powell. 2004. Distribution and diversity of zoosporic fungi from soils of four vegetation types in New South Wales, Australia. Canadian Journal of Botany 82: 1490-1500.

Letcher, P.M., M.J. Powell, J.G. Chambers, and W.E. Holznagel. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships among Rhizophydium isolates from North America and Australia. Mycologia 96: 1363-1375.

Blackwell, W.H., P.M. Letcher, and M.J. Powell. 2004. Synopsis and systematic reconsideration of Karlingiomyces (Chytridiomycota). Mycotaxon 89: 259-276.

Letcher, P.M. and M.J. Powell. 2002. Frequency and distribution patterns of zoosporic fungi from moss-covered and exposed forest soils. Mycologia 94: 761-771.

Blackwell, W.H., P.M. Letcher, and M.J. Powell. 2002. The question of the segregation of Diplochytridium from Chytridium sensu lato. Mycotaxon 83: 183-190.

Letcher, P.M. and M.J. Powell. 2002. A taxonomic summary of Chytriomyces (Chytridiomycota). Mycotaxon 84: 447-487.

Letcher, P.M. and M.J. Powell. 2001. Distribution of zoosporic fungi in forest soils of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Mycologia 93: 1029-1041.


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