Viorel Popescu

7Lakes-8435I officially joined Dr. Palen’s lab in Spring 2012 as a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow (, but I have been hosted in the Earth to Ocean research group at SFU since 2011 (as a visiting researcher during my postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley with Dr. Perry de Valpine). I am a conservation biologist and wildlife ecologist (PhD Wildlife Ecology, University of Maine 2011) with a primary interest in terrestrial vertebrate populations. My research focuses on understanding individual- to community-level responses to human-induced and natural disturbance in terrestrial ecosystems and at the aquatic/terrestrial interface. The taxonomic and geographic reach of my research is broad, ranging from large carnivore work in the Romania, to vernal pool amphibians in New England, and multi-species conservation in British Columbia, but united by a common theme: inferring animal-habitat relationships through the lens of multiple stressors and predicting their resilience to novel patterns of disturbance. Forest ecosystems, the focus of pic1my research, present specific conservation challenges and opportunities that greatly interest me. Many of the world’s forest ecosystems suffered substantial conversions to other land uses. The remaining forests are under intense pressure from lumber and other resource extraction, which occur at spatial and temporal scales that do not match the natural disturbance regimes. How these mismatches affect animal-habitat relationships, and what are the interplays with global climate change at the individual (behavior, physiology), population (space use, extinction), and species and community-levels (range shifts, turnover) form the core of my research. Ultimately, I integrate these levels of biological organization with climate and land use change models into resilient spatial solutions through systematic conservation planning.

pic2My primary research at SFU is focused on investigating the tradeoffs between aquatic and terrestrial conservation targets and small hydropower development in British Columbia. Small hydropower is posed as a low impact alternative to large hydropower, but little is known about ecological impacts of small hydropower (and the parallels with large hydro are limited). With Dr. Wendy Palen, Dr. Craig Orr (Watershed Watch Salmon Society), and a consortium of partners and stakeholders from the BC government, BC Hydro, academia, environmental NGOs, and the energy industry, I am developing a decision-support tool based on systematic conservation planning principles. This tool can be used to assess win-win situations across a broad range of development and conservation scenarios (focused on iconic Pacific Northwest species: anadromous salmonids, grizzly, caribou, marbled murrelet, tailed frog, spotted owl), and take strategic-level decisions on developmentthat has minimal impact on biodiversity.

Personal website:


Selected Publications

Souther, S., M. Tingley, V.D. Popescu, D. Hayman,  T. Graves, M. Ryan, B. Hartl and K. Terrell. (acceptedEcological impacts of hydraulic fracturing: Research priorities and knowledge gaps. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment

Popescu, V.D., P. de Valpine, and R. A. Sweitzer. 2014. Testing the consistency of wildlife data before combining them: the case of camera traps and telemetryEcology and Evolution 5: 933-943.

Popescu, V.D., L. Rozylowicz, D. Cogalniceanu, A. Cucu, and I. Niculae. 2013. Moving into protected areas? Setting priorities for conservation for Romanian reptiles and amphibians at risk from climate change. PLoS ONE 8: e79330.

Popescu, V.D., P. de Valpine, D. Tempel, and M.Z. Peery. 2012. Estimating population impacts via dynamic occupancy analysis of Before-After Control-Impact studies. Ecological Applications 22: 1389-1404.

Popescu, V.D., D.A. Patrick, M.L. Hunter, and A.J.K. Calhoun. 2012. The role of forest harvesting and subsequent vegetative regrowth in determining patterns of amphibian habitat use. Forest Ecology and Management 270: 163-174.

Popescu, V.D. and M.L. Hunter. 2012 Assisted colonization of wildlife species at risk from climate change. In J. Brodie, E. Post, D. Doak (eds.) Conserving wildlife populations in a changing climate. University of Chicago Press.

Popescu, V.D. and M.L. Hunter. 2011. Clearcutting affects habitat connectivity for a forest amphibian by decreasing permeability to juvenile movements. Ecological Applications 21: 1283–1295.

Rozylowicz, L.*, V.D. Popescu*, M. Patroescu, and G. Chisamera. The potential of large carnivores as conservation surrogates in the Romanian Carpathians. Biodiversity and Conservation 20:561-579.

Ioja, C.I., M. Patroescu, L. Rozylowicz, V.D. Popescu, M. Verghelet, M.I. Zotta, and M. Felciuc (2010) The efficacy of Romania’s protected areas network for conserving biodiversity. Biological Conservation 143: 2468-2476.

Popescu, V.D. and J.P. Gibbs (2009) Landscape Ecology and GIS methods. In C.K. Dodd (ed.) Amphibian Ecology and Conservation, Oxford University Press

Popescu, V.D. and J.P. Gibbs (2009) Interactions between climate, beaver activity, and pond occupancy of the cold-adapted mink frog in New York State, USA. Biological Conservation 142: 2059-2068.


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