Conservation Ecologist, United States Geological Survey


1923728_10275941371_9714_nDr. Peter Esselman is a conservation ecologist with more than 20 years of experience researching and implementing conservation projects in the rivers of Belize.  Dr. Esselman has been closely affiliated with BFREE since its inception in 1995.  He lived and worked at BFREE in 1997 – 1998 and again in 2000-2002 when he built one of BFREE’s researcher cabins, and used BFREE as a base of operations for his graduate field research.  Peter received his Masters of Science degree in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable development from University of Georgia in 2001, conducting foundational research on freshwater ecosystems of the Monkey River.  He subsequently consulted to a variety of conservation groups in southern Belize and at the national scale before going back to school for a PhD in Aquatic Resource Ecology and Management, which he received from the University of Michigan in 2009.  Dr. Esselman’s PhD research addressed Belize aquatic ecosystem conservation, documenting distributions and drivers of aquatic biodiversity, distributions of invasive aquatic species, and the most suitable locations for freshwater protected areas.  Dr. Esselman was an Assistant Professor of Zoology at Michigan State University before joining the U.S. Geological Survey to work on the Laurentian Great Lakes.  He continues to actively advise students and contribute to education, research, and conservation projects at BFREE an in Belize.


Esselman, P.C. (1997). Monkey River community monitoring program: a preliminary assessment. Belize, Central America.

Esselman, P.C., (2001). The Monkey River baseline study: basic and applied research for monitoring and assessment in Southern Belize. Master of Science Thesis. University of Georgia.

Esselman, P.C. & Boles, E. (2001). Status and future needs of limnological research in Belize. Limnology in Developing Countries, 3:35-68.

Esselman, P.C., Freeman, M.C., & Pringle, C.M. (2006). Fish-assemblage variation between geologically defined regions and across a longitudinal gradient in the Monkey River Basin, Belize. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 25(1):142-156.

Esselman, P.C. (2007). A NPASP – Consistent baseline assessment program for the freshwater fishes of Belize: PACT Research Grant Final Report.

Esselman, P.C. (2007). Predicted spatial success of African Tilapia in the domestic and international watersheds of Belize: technical summary of model results.

Esselman, P.C. (2007). A tutorial for the prediction of aquatic species distributions. University of Michigan. School of Natural Resources and Environment.

Esselman, P.C. & Buck, D.G. (2007). Hydrologic Assessment of the Monkey River Watershed, Belize.

Esselman, P.C. & Boles, E. (2008). Chapter two: national circumstance. Second National Communication to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Commission on Climate Change.

Esselman, P.C. (2009). Desarrollo de un modelo de predicción de riesgo de fiebre del dengue en León, Nicaragua. Informe tecnico final.

Esselman, P.C., (2009). Fish communities and conservation of aquatic landscapes in northeastern Mesoamerica. Dissertation. University of Michigan.

Winemiller, K.O., Hoeinghaus, D.J., Pease, A.A., Esselman, P.C., Honeycutt, R.L., Gbanaador, D., Carrera, E., & Payne, J. (2010). Stable isotope analysis reveals food web structure and watershed impacts along the fluvial gradient of a Mesoamerican coastal river. Wiley InterScience.

Esselman, P.C. & Opperman, J.J. (2010). Overcoming information limitations for the prescription of an environmental flow regime for a Central American river. Ecological Society, 15 (1): 6.

Esselman, P.C. & Allan, J.D. (2011). Application of species distribution models and conservation planning software to the design of a reserve network for the riverine fishes of northeastern Mesoamerica. Freshwater Biology, 56:71-88.

Buck, D.G., Esselman, P.C., Villafranco, J. (2011). Monitoring land use changes along riparian corridors in lowland tropical watersheds: application of human impact mapping and estimation of local stress intensity. Mesoamericana, 15(3): 51-62.

Esselman, P.C., Schmitter-Soto, J.J., & Allen, J.D. (2013). Spatiotemporal dynamics of the spread of African tilapias (Pisces: Orechomis spp.) into rivers of northeastern Mesoamerica. Biological Invasions, 15:1471-1491.