B.A. in Biology
New York University, 2002
PhD in Biology
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2010
Areas of interest:
Courses taught: Introduction to Cell Biology, Ecology and Evolution of the Organism, Comparative Anatomy, Conservation Biology, Introduction to Biology, Senior Research I, II, III.
Research interests: My research interests are extremely varied but center around plant ecology, particularly how plants change the cycling of nutrients in the ecosystem. As part of this research, I have examined questions concerning plant competition for soil resources (such as nitrogen), plant-soil microbe relationships, and plant-soil feedbacks on plant performance. I have also conducted research into bioenergy and the most sustainable tree species to use for renewable biofuel production.
Some of the questions that students will have the chance to explore in my lab are:
- How do different plant species respond to global change?
- How do exotic species invade new communities?
- Are all exotic species ‘bad' for an ecosystem?
- How do plants-microbe interactions drive the plant communities that you see everyday?
- How can plants impact their own growth and success in an ecosystem?
My training in ecology and evolutionary biology however allows me to examine a wide range of questions from the physiological to the ecosystem scale.
I currently have 4 research students working with me on their research projects. Their projects include understanding how plant community diversity impacts the success of invasive woody species, the ability for snake venom to shrink tumors, and how diet preferences in deer. Currently I am working on a project examining how to simulate climate change in a closed system using household items so that students in K-12 classrooms (and maybe all over the world) can study human driven climate change in their schools.
Other Educational Activities at Doane and in the Crete community:
1) I am currently developing a carbon sequestration plan for Doane College (DC2P) that involves students actively planting trees and quantifying the standing carbon stocks in the trees and soil on Doane's campus.
2) I am currently working with upper-level science students at Crete Middle School. On this day we are carrying out a graphing activity using the explosive chemical reaction between Diet Coke and Mentos. The students are asking the question: "What is the relationship between number of Mentos inserted into the bottle and height of Diet Coke explosion.
3) I am involved with a local prairie nature club in conjunction with the Audubon society. We take a group of school aged students, many of whom are under-represented groups in science, and Crete community members out to a restored prairie near Doane to explore a variety of aspects of prairie biology ranging from grassland restoration to mammals and birds of the prairie.
4) I have established a set of experimental plots near Doane College that are part of a global research network known as NutNet (Nutrient Network). The Doane College NutNet sites at Spring Creek Prairie place Doane College in a global network of researchers, and provide a long-term pedagogical tool to the entire Doane community. Participation in the NutNet program allows Doane College students to conduct cutting-edge research on anthropogenic changes in nutrient availability are impacting grassland communities and other critical environmental issues by having access to data from not only the Spring Creek site, but from the entire global research network. It also provides opportunities for Doane students to visit other NutNet sites and conduct their own cross-site studies of how anthropogenic changes in nutrient availability are impacting grassland communities. In addition, this site has been used by a number of other faculty members in their classes
Peer Reviewed Publications:
Laungani, R; M. Juarez¶; T. Kuhfahl¶; K. Elgersma . 2015. Biochar amendment of grassland soil may promote woody encroachment of Eastern Red Cedar. Plant and Soil (in review)* ¶(undergraduate authors)
Li, Wenjin; J. Knops; Xiaoan Zuo; R. Laungani. 2014. Carbon and nitrogen cycling are resistant to fire in nutrient poor grassland. Soil Science Society of America Journal 78:825-831* [pdf]
Laungani, R. and J. Knops. 2012. Microbial nitrogen immobilization drives nitrogen cycling differences among species. Oikos 121: 1840–1848* [pdf]
Laungani, R. and J. Knops. 2009. Species impacts on ecosystem carbon pools, distribution, and potential bioenergy stocks. Global change biology: bioenergy 1: 392 - 403. [pdf]
Laungani, R. and J. Knops. 2009. Species-driven changes in nitrogen cycling can control plant invasions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106 (30): 12400-12405 [pdf]
Umphlett, N.A., T.R. Brosius, R. Laungani, J. Rousseau, and D.L. Leslie-Pelecky. 2009. Ecosystem Jenga. Science Scope 33 (1): 57 - 60 [pdf]
Mascaro, J, R. Laungani, C. Farrior, R.F. Hughes, J. Knops, and S. Schnitzer. Invasion ecology and the biodiversity-ecosystem function paradigm: could invasion benefit ecosystem function? (in revision)
*Published while at Doane College