I am Curator of Mammals at the Museum of Natural Science and Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University. In the lab we study speciation, island biogeography, phylogenetics, systematics, and community ecology. Most of our research focuses on small mammals from Southeast Asia and Africa. In general, we conduct biodiversity surveys and use genetic and morphological characters to understand how organisms are related to one another. We then use the relationships among species and populations to gain insight on how general biotic and abiotic processes produce the patterns of biodiversity we see today.

Contact Information:
Museum of Natural Science
Louisiana State University
119 Foster Hall
Baton Rouge, LA 70803

phone: 225.578.3083
email: esselstyn [AT] lsu [DOT] edu

A brief explanation of our research

PhD students wanted!!


The Department of Biological Sciences and Museum of Natural Science have outstanding resources for research in systematics and evolution. If you are potentially interested in joining the lab as a graduate student, please contact me. A variety of funding sources are available, including NSF-sponsored research assistantships and museum-based curatorial assistantships. We also have opportunities for LSU undergraduates interested in gaining research experience.

Recent news


The Sulawesi snouter is all over the news! Who says rats aren't loved? Live Science BBC The Advocate CBS 13 October 2015.


A hearty congratulations to incoming graduate student Jon Nations, who just learned he'll be the recipient of a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation! 1 April 2015.

Our newest lab members just arrived! We are welcoming new post-doc Terry Demos and new graduate student Mark Swanson to the sweltering south. 18 August 2014.


Meet the Sulawesi water rat, Waiomys mamasae. Kevin Rowe, Anang Achmadi, and I discovered this species in the highlands of West Sulawesi. It's the first semi-aquatic rat known from SE Asia and represents a cool case of convergent evolution of traits associated with foraging in streams. Photo credit: Kevin Rowe. Zootaxa. 17 June 2014.


Bill Stanley and I, along with several colleagues, document a new shrew from the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 'super-shrew' strength! Photo credit: Bill Stanley. Biology Letters. 24 July 2013.

The world's first rodent without molars, described in Biology Letters. 22 August 2012.

Many thanks to the National Geographic Society! Their Committee for Research and Exploration has decided to support our research on Sulawesi's radiation of murine rodents! 3 December 2011.

National Geographic has picked up the story of our recent fieldwork on Sulawesi. 29 July 2011.

Our work on shrew community assembly in the Philippines was just published in PLoS ONE. 7 July 2011.

The good folks at the Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo) were very excited by our recent surveys in the forests of Mt. Tompotika at the eastern tip of Sulawesi's east peninsula. We believe we have discovered multiple new species of small mammals. AlTo is working hard to preserve some of the world's most incredible biodiversity. 25 June 2011.