Photo courtesy of Octavian “Tavi” Popescu

Dr. Viorel Popescu, Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology (; download CV here). I am broadly trained ecologist and environmental scientist, who accidentally fell into conservation biology and never looked back. I love herps, like to cuddle with large carnivores when I get the chance, and spend a lot of time (maybe too much time) doing stats. As a native Romanian, I work on conservation issues in Eastern Europe (mainly large carnivores). At OHIO, I enjoy spelling trouble for grad students, teaching wildlife and ecology classes, and working with management agencies.

Graduate students:


Marissa Dyck, PhD student, 2018-present ( carnivore ecology and conservation. Marissa earned her B.S. in Zoology and Environment and Natural Resources from the University of Wyoming. She’s broadly interested in conservation biology, ecology, and interspecific interactions. Her current research focuses on the population dynamics of bobcats in Ohio. Marissa has worked on a variety of projects including analyzing dietary responses of invasive gastropods in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, assessing mutualisms between baboons and an invasive cactus in Kenya, and managing a long term large-mammalian exclosure experiment in East Africa. In her spare time, she enjoys rock climbing and playing with her fur baby, Sadie.

Matthew Kaunert, PhD student, 2017-present ( Eastern hellbender conservation and ecology. Matt received his B.S. in Biology from Allegheny College in 2011 and his M.S. in Biology from Georgia Southern University in 2013. His  research interests include conservation biology, disturbance ecology, and herpetology, and has been involved in various wildlife research projects including working with the Florida scrub lizard, red-cockaded woodpecker, and American alligator. His dissertation will focus on Eastern hellbender conservation in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Courtney Silver-Peavey, PhD student, 2019-present ( carryover effects of multiple stressors on amphibian behavior and dispersal. Courtney is fascinated by frogs, and her MSc research at California State University at Chico investigated vocalization of a frog species at the core of substantial conservation efforts in California, the Foothills Yellow Legged Frog. Courtney is actively involved the reintroduction program for this species, and wants to continue along this track by also looking at recovery of amphibian populations in Ohio strip mine lands.

Cassandra Thompson, PhD student, 2016-present ( amphibian responses to climate and land use change. Cassie is broadly interested in conservation and understanding species responses species to human disturbances. She is particularly interested in amphibian responses to climate and land use changes. Her current research, funded by NSF-GRFP, focuses on carryover effects of conditions experienced in the larval stage on juvenile fitness.

Ryan Brown, MSc Student, 2020-present ( Eastern hellbender ecology. Ryan is broadly interested in wildlife management, particularly game and endangered species, and is an avid outdoorsman. His project aims to evaluate the effects of water quality on hellbender egg survival and recruitment, and quantify hellbender stream habitat alteration in a watershed subject to widespread fracking activities.

Undergraduate researchers:

Madeline Kenyon, HTC Biological Sciences – Honors Thesis: Developing monitoring protocols for beavers in Ohio

Andrew Connolly, Ohio Honors Program – Honors Thesis: Anuran community occupancy dynamics in Wayne National Forest

Helena Littler, OHIO Biological Sciences major (hellbender ecology research assistant)

Sarah Romer, OHIO Wildlife and Conservation (hellbender ecology research assistant)

Stephanie Wilhelm, OHIO Wildlife and Conservation (amphibian ecology research assistant)

Adrienne Dolle, OHIO Biological Sciences (amphibian ecology research assistant)

Former lab members:

Dr. Mihai Pop (2015-2019) – PhD at University of Bucharest, co-advised with Dr. Laurentiu Rozylowicz (current position: Senior Scientist at Association for Biodiversity Conservation, Romania)

Dr. Ruben Iosif (2015-17) – Postdoctoral researcher, hierarchical wildlife modeling (current position: Senior Scientist at Conservation Carpathia Foundation, Romania)

Dr. Florina Stanescu (February-June 2018) – Fulbright postdoctoral researcher, amphibian development and climate change (current position: Research Associate, Ovidius University, Constanta)

Heidi Bencin – MSc (2016-2018) – bobcat occurrence and co-occurrence with coyotes, and road mortality risk in Ohio (current position: wildlife researcher, Ohio University)

Marcel Weigand – MSc (2016-2018) – impacts of roads on Eastern Box Turtles in Ohio (current position: Northeastern Ohio Conservation Coordinator, The Nature Conservancy)

Eva Garcia – MSc student intern (University of Montpellier, France; March-August 2018) – road mortality in turtle populations

Mackenzie Rich – HTC Biological Sciences 2017, Honors Thesis: Interactions between terrestrial carnivores in SE Ohio

Ryan Wagner, OHIO Wildlife and Conservation 2020 – Honors Thesis: Snake road mortality hotspots in SE Ohio

Megan Sweeney, OHIO Environmental Biology 2020 – Honors Thesis: Effects of Imidacloprid on larval wood frog behavior

Andrew Travers, OHIO Wildlife and Conservation 2020 (hellbender ecology research assistant)

Christine Hanson, OHIO Environmental Biology major 2020 (hellbender and bobcat ecology research assistant)

Noah Skinner, OHIO Wildlife and Conservation major 2020 (hellbender ecology research assistant)