February 23, 2016 at 10:47 am

Popescu Seeks Undergraduate Apprentice for Work on Ohio Carnivores

Dr. Viorel Popescu, Assistant Professor of Conservation Biology, is seeking an undergraduate research apprentice for a project on “Evaluating mammalian carnivore communities in Ohio using camera traps.”

Currently enrolled Ohio University undergraduates from all colleges are invited to apply for the Research Apprenticeship Program. Administered by the Honors Tutorial College and sponsored by several other units across campus, the program enables students to build skills in research and creative activity by supporting faculty projects. Selected students are paid $10 an hour and agree to work during the time period specified in the description.

This apprenticeship is for 28 hours a week for 12 weeks during Summer 2016.

How to Apply

Applications are due by March 18, 2016. To apply for apprenticeship(s), a student must e-mail Dr. Viorel Popescu. Contact information is listed in the apprenticeship description. The email should explain the student’s qualifications and interest in the project (no more than three paragraphs) and have an attached resume. It is strongly recommended that students meet with an adviser in the Career and Leadership Development Center in Baker Center 533 to help them compose their letter and resume before applying. Late applications will not be accepted. Notification will occur by April 15, 2016. For more information about the application process, contact Laura Schaeffer, Director of Honors Enrichment Programs at or 593-2725. Students may apply for as many apprenticeships as they wish.

Project Description

Understanding the distribution of wildlife species and the composition of wildlife communities is key for developing sound management and conservation strategies. The mammalian carnivore community in Ohio has been dramatically altered by humans over the past two centuries, and several species have been making a comeback in recent years (e.g., bobcat, Lynx rufus, American black bear, Ursus americanus, fisher, Pekania penannti). Anecdotal evidence suggests a shifting dynamics in the carnivore community, concomitant with range contraction in some species (e.g., grey fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus), yet the ecological underpinnings for the recovery or decline of various species are not documented. This project will set the basis for a long-term monitoring of the carnivore community in Southeast Ohio with the goal of predicting community dynamics and ecological basis for range expansions and contractions, and has as two main objectives: (1) to evaluate the probability of occurrence of individual mammalian carnivore species (13 species in Southeast Ohio), and their habitat relations, and (2) to investigate the ecological interactions between species potentially leading to the current observed declines or range expansions.

This is the first comprehensive assessment of the mammalian carnivore community in Southeast Ohio, and it will be conducted using a widely accepted wildlife monitoring method based on camera trapping.Briefly, remote cameras are set up systematically using a rectangular grid (usually 5×5 or 3×3 km) in a target area covering various habitat types (e.g., state forests). Animals crossing in front of the motion-sensor cameras are photographed, and photographs stored on a memory card.

Cameras are deployed for several weeks (4-6 weeks) during summer; during this time, cameras are relocated within the same grid cell 4-5 times. The photo capture history provides information on which species are frequenting the focus areas, as well as on the detectability of the species, a critical parameter for wildlife monitoring. Detection/non-detection data is then analyzed using a Bayesian or frequentist hierarchical modelling approach.

This project will provide valuable information and set the stage for future detailed analyses looking at interspecific interactions and demography, and will directly inform current management and conservation actions for mammalian carnivores in Ohio.

Student Contribution to Project

The student employee will assist in ongoing research designed to evaluate the composition of wildlife communities in Southeasat Ohio. The student will be expected to participate in all aspects of this research. This will include designing the data collection protocol, field activities such as deploying and monitoring camera traps, collecting habitat data, analyzing photographs to identify carnivore species, entering and processing wildlife data using MS Office and program R, and analyzing wildlife data using statistical software. He or she will be involved in several research avenues evaluating patterns in forest habitat use by wildlife communities, evaluating habitat use by carnivores, quantifying movements and habitat occupancy by focal wildlife species (including expanding bobcats and declining grey foxes in Southeast Ohio).

The student will have considerable interaction with other undergraduate researchers, such as PACE students, graduate students, as well as with personnel from Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, Athens, OH. The student will have the freedom to pursue their own research interests (protocol design, data analysis), thus providing significant intellectual contributions to this research. The student will lead the team implementing this project, and will be responsible to managing personnel and field logistics.The student will also contribute to the write-up of various manuscripts and technical reports using the data collected in the field.

Desired Qualifications for Apprentice

The student should have interests to pursue research in wildlife management and conservation, and The student should minimally have had exposure to introductory biology and ecology, and data analysis/biostatistics, and be familiar with current topics in wi1dlife conservation. Previous fieldwork experience is not essential, but recommended. Therefore, this position would be most appropriate for Biological Sciences majors in Wildlife and Conservation. The student will be expected to use computers for documentation, and data analysis (statistics in program R), and wildlife fieldwork equipment (e.g., camera traps, GPS, compass, topo maps) for data collection. Students must also possess a valid drivers license.

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