Viorel Popescu – Conservation Ecology Lab


Conservation Ecology Lab; quantitative wildlife ecology and conservation science

Welcome to the Conservation Ecology Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Ohio University. We work on applied wildlife and conservation research in Ohio’s deciduous forests, mountains of the Pacific Northwest and California, Romanian Carpathians, and subtropical China. Our research interests are diverse, spanning mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and we use a variety of experimental, observational and computational approaches that are problem-solving oriented. For example, we work on sustainability of carnivore trophy hunting and efficacy of protected areas in Romania, evaluating impacts of roads on reptiles and mammals in Ohio, exploring trade-offs between  renewable energy and biodiversity conservation in British Columbia, and evaluating the effects of multiple stressors on amphibian populations.

LATEST NEWS!!!  (also check out the NEWS page for updates)
  • New paper on estimating brown bear abundance in the Romanian Carpathians using snow and mud track surveys is out in Ecology and Evolution! With colleagues from Vrancea EPA ( and Association for Biodiversity Conservation (, we tested the traditional method for monitoring brown bears (all wildlife, actually) employed by the Romanian game managers, reporting number of tracks, by adding a robust design (multiple visits on the same transect), using modern statistical methods,  and integrating home range data. Well, even with all these twists, simply replying tracks did not fare well for estimating abundance, highlighting the need for a paradigm shift in Romanian large carnivore management, and for DNA-based surveys.
HUGE CONGRATS to all my lab members; they rocked the grant and job world! After spending a semester writing grants and research proposals, March 2017 proved to be the best month of my year at Ohio University… when it rains, it pours:
  • Cassie Thompson (MSc) won a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for her research on amphibians and climate change
  • Heidi Bencin (MSc) was awarded an OCEES (Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies) Fellowship, which provides stipend and teaching relief for Fall 2017; she was also awarded a $6K Student Enhancement Award (a competitive Ohio University research grant) for her work on bobcat ecology and management
  • Marcel Weigand (MSc) was awarded a $6K Student Enhancement Award as well for her work on turtle ecology and roadways
  • Mackenzie Rich (Honors Tutorial College undergraduate) will start a 6-month wildlife internship with The Wilds, Columbus Zoo
  • NEW LAB MEMBER: Matt Kaunert will join our research group in August 2017 as a PhD student, and will work on a hellbender ecology project (with Dr. Steve Spear at The Wilds)

Bobcat research by Honors student Mackenzie Rich and graduate student Cassie Thompson featured in the online College of Arts and Sciences FORUM.

Ongoing Work!


GO BOBCATS! Mackenzie Rich, Honors Tutorial College undergraduate and Cassandra Thompson, MSc student, ran a camera trapping study to evaluate the composition and distribution of Ohio’s terrestrial carnivore community, with a focus on Ohio University favorite, BOBCATS!




Beetles and more! Bekka Brodie and colleagues from University of Bucharest, Romania, surveyed endangered saproxylic beetles in traditionally maintained landscapes in SW Romania using pheromone traps as a form of rapid biodiversity monitoring

Check out the project video on Youtube




Wildlife road mortality mitigation: OU undergraduates Devon Cottrill, Jeff Roush, and Nicole Dake spent 2 months surveying whitetail deer using remote cameras and pellet counts along US Highway 33 in SE Ohio to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation structures for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions



Prospective graduate students: If you are interested in being part of my lab at Ohio University, please send me: (A) a short statement about yourself and your research interests (background, goals/ambitions, why Ohio University), (B) your resume or CV, and (C) your GPA and GRE scores.

The main research directions in the lab are: (1) amphibian ecology and conservation, (2) carnivore ecology and conservation, and (3) spatial conservation planning, but incoming students may to develop their own projects focused on other conservation topics of interests.

Dr. Viorel D. Popescu
Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Ohio University
423 Irvine Hall
Athens, OH 45701
Skype: dvpopescu 

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