Viorel Popescu – Conservation Biology Lab

Conservation Biology Lab at OHIO

quantitative wildlife ecology and conservation science

Welcome to the Conservation Biology 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 applied ecology and conservation issues, such as sustainability of carnivore trophy hunting, impacts of roads on wildlife populations, carnivore population ecology, systematic conservation planning, and impacts of stressors on amphibian populations.

  • August 2020: We are welcoming Ryan Brown as a new MSc student in the lab! Ryan has been engaged with research in our lab since 2018, first as a undergraduate research assistant, then as a Lab Manager for the last year. Ryan obtained a degree from Hocking College prior to joining Ohio University, has a broad set of field skills, and is an encyclopedia of natural history knowledge. Ryan will work with Matt Kaunert exploring the lives and reproductive ecology of Eastern Hellbenders and contribute to proposing sound conservation strategies for hellbenders in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
  • November 2019 – Heidi Bencin’s MSc research on road mortality in Ohio’s bobcat population is out in Scientific Reports! Heidi’s study integrated roadkill data across two decades, a GPS telemetry dataset to evaluate road-crossing behaviors, and theoretical estimations of road mortality risk at the population level to ultimate valuate predictors and hotspots of roadkill. Interstate highways were the top threat with high chance of mortality during crossings, and overall, we estimated that 6 – 18% of Ohio’s bobcat population may be affected by direct mortality from vehicle strikes. This finding is critical for projecting future population trajectory, which is the next step in the Ohio DNR funded project in the lab.
  • September 2019 – Marcel Weigand’s MSc research in press at European Journal of Wildlife Management (Proximity to highways has limited influence on space use and physiology of terrestrial testudines)! Great collaboration with Dr. Chris Tonra and the Avian Ecology Lab at The Ohio State University. Highway Right-of-Way provided thermoregulating turtle habitat, there were no differences in habitat selection and home ranges between roadside turtles and turtles in a nearby roadless area. However, roadside turtles strongly avoided the highway; this is good news from a road mortality standpoint, bad news from a population connectivity standpoint. Stress hormone (corticosterone) concentrations were similar between Bypass and roadless site at the onset of the study, but they spiked a year later at the road site.
Eastern Box Turtle on a forest road in Wayne National Forest, Ohio; Photo by Ryan Wagner
  • Summer 2019 – Many exciting things going on in the lab! Courtney Silver will join the lab in the Fall as a PhD student; she comes from California State University, Chico, and is interested in amphibian ecology and conservation. We (Romanian colleagues and I) also published a Perspective in journal in Science (14 June issue) calling for transparent science and decision process around large carnivore conservation and management in Romania: Romanian carnivores at a crossroads. We have been providing scientific support to several NGO’s and wildlife management agencies on large carnivore research projects… busy time in Romania!
  • January 2019 – Second collaboration with Dr. Bekka Brodie, and the first paper on invertebrates from our lab! We developed a non-lethal monitoring method using pheromone lures and occupancy methods to assess saproxylic beetle diversity and abundance, focused on a beautiful traditionally-maintained landscape in SW Romania. Read more in this post on the OHIO College of Arts and Sciences Forum.


Prospective graduate students: If you are interested in joining our 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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