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Peter C Esselman, PhD

Peter Esselman, PhD, is a Research Fishery Biologist based in Ann Arbor, MI. 

I am PhD scientist with 25 years of experience in freshwater ecological research and conservation. My research extends the theory and approaches of landscape ecology into large lake and river contexts to support natural resource decision making from local to continental scales.  Since joining USGS in 2014, I have worked to apply emerging technologies and analytical approaches to the description of large-scale spatiotemporal variation in forage fish abundances and habitats that underpin Great Lakes commercial and recreational fisheries.  I am also actively engaged in the detection, measurement and modeling of invasive and nuisance species distributions and abundances to support the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  I am a strong advocate for modernization of data collection methods, aquatic remote sensing, and improving bathymetric and habitat maps for the Great Lakes.  Toward that end, I co-Chair a bi-national network of scientists and resource managers collaborating under the auspices of the Great Lakes Bottom Mapping Working Group.  Prior to joining USGS I worked extensively in Central America where I studied tropical river ecosystems and supported local conservation organizations.  I have specialties in fish community ecology, landscape ecology, biological assessment, applications of machine learning models to ecological problems, field methods, and spatial planning.

Professional Experience

  • Research Fish Biologist, US Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center (2014-present)

  • Assistant Professor, Michigan State University Dept of Zoology (2011-2014)

  • Consultant to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (2012-2015)

  • Research Associate, Michigan State University Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife and Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) (2009-2011)

  • Consultant, The World Bank (2008-2009)

  • Consultant, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Global Freshwater Team (2006-2009)

  • Consultant, City of Knowledge Foundation (2006-2007)

  • Consultant to TNC Belize Country Program (2001-2002; 2003; 2008)

Education and Certifications

  • Ph.D. (Aquatic Resource Ecology and Management) University of Michigan, School of Natural Resources & Environment, 2009

  • M.Sc. (Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development) University of Georgia, Institute of Ecology, 2001

  • B.A. (Environmental Studies/Anthropology minor) Connecticut College, 1994

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