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 I am a nerd who thinks a lot about statistics modeling. As a native Romanian, I work on various conservation issues back home, and maintain close work ties with Romanian colleagues. In Ohio, I enjoy spelling trouble for grad students, and spending time with my fam.


Graduate students:


Heidi Bencin, MSc student ( bobcat ecology in Ohio. Heidi earned her B.S. in Environmental Science from Cleveland State University. Her interests include conservation biology, ecology, and the human dimensions of wildlife. Her current research is focused on assessing distribution, population structure, and predictors of road mortality for bobcats throughout Ohio. In her free time, Heidi enjoys traveling and cuddling with baby animals.


IMG_1303Marissa Dyck, PhD student ( 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.


MattKaunert Matthew Kaunert, PhD student ( Eastern hellbender conservation and ecology, co-advised by Dr. Stephen Spear at The Wilds. Matt is a proud native of western Pennsylvania. He 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. He has contributed to various wildlife research projects across the eastern US, working with such species as the Florida scrub lizard, red-cockaded woodpecker, and American alligator. His dissertation will focus on Eastern hellbender conservation in Ohio and Pennsylvania.


cassieCassandra Thompson, PhD student ( amphibian responses to climate and land use change. Cassie is broadly interested in conservation and understanding short- and long- term responses of species to human disturbances. She is particularly interested in amphibian responses to climate and land use changes. Her current research, funded by the NSF – Graduate Research Fellowship Program, focuses on understanding how conditions experienced in the aquatic larval stage of anurans affect fitness and habitat selection throughout an entire annual cycle.



Mihai Pop, PhD student: Carpathian brown bear ecology and conservation (at University of Bucharest, co-advised with Dr. Laurentiu Rozylowicz). Mihai’s work is focused on brown bear ecology, and it is aimed at understanding how the land use is influencing the bear movement ecology and conflicts with humans. He works with a small, but dedicated group of people at the NGO Association for the Conservation of Biological Diversity in Romania to infuse science into carnivore management in Romania.



Iulia Miu, PhD student: systematic conservation planning in Romania (at University of Bucharest, co-advised with Dr. Laurentiu Rozylowicz). Her work focuses on the mammalian community of Eastern Romania, and developing landscape conservation planning strategies for long-term population viability. Iulia is a world traveler and a passionate hiker and backpacker.



Researcher/Lab manager: Julia Golias, OU Wildlife and Conservation major graduate (2016)


Undergraduate researchers:

Ryan Wagner, OU Wildlife and Conservation major

Megan Sweeney, OU Wildlife and Conservation major

Andrew Travers, OU Wildlife and Conservation major

Christine Hanson, OU Wildlife and Conservation major



Former lab members:

Dr. Ruben Iosif (2016-17) – Postdoctoral researcher, hierarchical wildlife modeling (current position: Senior Scientist at Carpathia Foundation, Romania)

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

Marcel Weigand – MSc student (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

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