Viorel Popescu – Conservation Ecology Lab

Conservation Ecology Lab at OHIO

quantitative wildlife ecology and conservation science

Welcome to the Conservation Ecology Lab in the Department of Biological Sciences at Ohio University. Dr. Viorel Popescu and graduate and undergraduate students 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)
  • 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.
  • November 2018 Heidi Bencin is the second lab fledgling! CONGRATS Heidi for a fabulous MSc thesis and defense on bobcats, roads, camera trapping, genetics… and so on…! Thank you for the incredible amount of work and dedication… and your amazing drawings! 
  • September 2018 – Our lab, supported by several other faculty in the Departments of Biological Sciences, Environmental and Plant Biology and the Voinovich School Environmental Studies Program, was awarded $50,000 from the Ohio University 1804 Fund to develop an outdoor aquatic mesocosm research facility on the OHIO Athens campus. This facility research will provide research and experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, and facilitate collaborations with a broad network of similar facilities in the US Midwest and Northeast. Find more details about the facility and ongoing aquatic mesocosm research involving larval amphibians at OHIO here.
  • August 2018 – PhD student Matt Kaunert, joined by with OU undergraduate researchers Andrew Travers, Ryan Wagner, Christine Hanson, and Megan Sweeney, Hocking College student Hannah Kopp, research assistant Julia Golias, and French graduate Student Eva Garcia, are helping out with Eastern Hellbender releases in Ohio (in collaboration with Ohio DNR; see photos below) and deployment of nest boxes, a habitat augmentation strategy, in Pennsylvania.
  • July 2018 – Marcel Weigand, Cassie Thompson and Heidi Bencin presented their MSc research at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology, Toronto. Cassie and Marcel were selected as Student Award Finalists, out of hundreds of abstract submissions! Congrats…. #OhioBobcats represent!
  • JULY 2018 First thesis defense in my lab! Marcel Weigand did an incredible job showcasing her novel ecological and physiological research on impacts of roadways on Eastern Box Turtles. CONGRATULATIONS!
  • June 2018 – The lab’s first Ohio wildlife research paper published in the open -access journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution! 
    Rich, M., C. Thompson, S. Prange, and V.D. Popescu. Relative importance of habitat characteristics and interspecific interactions in determining terrestrial carnivore occurrence. This is our first field project in Ohio (2016) and was spearheaded by HTC and BIOS student Mackenzie Rich (now a MSc student at Wright State), and current graduate student Cassie Thompson; also a great collaboration first with Dr. Suzie Prange. We thank the Honors Tutorial College for funding Mackenzie to do this work. The study was featured on the OHIO CAS Forum.
  • April 2018 – A great month!!! Marissa Dyck accepted a PhD position on our lab working on bobcat ecology and will be joining us in the Fall; WELCOME! Cassie Thompson switched from MSc to a PhD position in the lab, so more frogs and climate change experimental work funded by NSF-Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Ohio DNR funded a 3-year project on Eastern Hellbender ecology and conservation; kudos to PhD student Matt Kaunert for all his work on developing this project, and thanks to collaborators Gregg Lipps, Steve Spear (The Wilds) and John Navarro (ODNR) for the support! New study on brown bear spatial ecology in Nature Conservation from PhD student Mihai Pop and collaborators at University of Bucharest.


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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