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 across many systems: from Ohio’s deciduous forests, to mountains of the Pacific Northwest and California, the Romanian Carpathians, and subtropical China. Our research interests are diverse, spanning large carnivores, reptiles and amphibians, and we use experimental, observational and computational approaches to tackle current conservation issues. We work on a variety of issues, for example sustainability of carnivore trophy hunting, impacts of roads on wildlife populations, carnivore population ecology, systematic conservation planning, and impacts of climate change on amphibian populations.

LATEST NEWS!!!  (also check out the NEWS page for updates)
  • January 2018 – Seed grant money from the Ohio University Research Committee for Eastern Hellbender ecology! PhD student Matt Kaunert will be working closely with Ohio DNR to monitor captive-bred and released subadults using amplified PIT tag readers, and to understand reproductive ecology by monitoring nest boxes. Exciting project and a new species for our lab!
  • January 2018 – New paper in Animal Conservation on spatial conservation prioritization for Brown bears in Romania (with colleagues from University of Bucharest and Association for Biodiversity Conservation). We integrated space use information (home range, habitat selection) and systematic conservation planning (software Zonation) and identified connected, high conservation value habitats, which will inform current efforts to redraft the Romanian national management plan for brown bears! Scientific evidence on brown ecology is pilling up; keep an eye out for a new study coming up soon….
  • We received funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to study bobcat ecology in Ohio! Looking forward to working with Ohio Division of Wildlife biologists over the next 4 years to develop a population model to understand the viability of Ohio’s recovering bobcat population, and inform bobcat management and conservation. Graduate student Heidi Bencin started preliminary work on occupancy and non-invasive genetics this Summer (2017). Looking for a PhD student to continue her work (check out ad here ECOLOG).


  • June 2017 – 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 using track surveys employed by the Romanian game managers by implementing a robust design (multiple visits on the same transect), using hierarchical 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



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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