My primary research focus is the ecology and transmission of infectious diseases and their effects on human populations. I am particularly interested in the geographic spread of human infectious diseases in both historical and modern populations and the ways that human social behaviors promote or limit that spread. I am also interested in the demography of living and past populations.
Present research projects focus on a) a comparison of the 1918 influenza pandemic and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in rural vs. urban counties of Missouri, b) a comparison of the spread of the 1918-19 influenza epidemic and other epidemics in Labrador and Alaska, and c) the spread of multiple acute pathogens (especially influenza and measles) within a context of chronic tuberculosis and malnutrition in Newfoundland and Labrador during the first half of the 20th century. In addition to collecting archival data of relevance to my projects, I specialize in developing and analyzing results from mathematical and computer modeling of the spread of infectious diseases, with a present emphasis on the development of agent-based computer simulation models.
I am no longer accepting graduate students. If you are a student or researcher working in an area related to what I study, feel free to contact me with questions and comments about my or your own work.
To me the most important thing students should learn in college and graduate school is how to move beyond memorization of facts and equations to a new level—one where they begin to assimilate the material, combine it with other information they have learned, critically evaluate it, and mold it into ideas that they can begin to call their own. In order to do this I emphasize three activities: 1) focusing lectures and discussions not only on the nuts and bolts of the material we are discussing, but on how that material is used in the real world and on critical evaluations of that material and the inferences researchers can draw from it, 2) assigning written assessments that require students to work with the material presented rather than just memorizing information, and 3) using a variety of teaching methods and materials. Although some of my classes are traditional lecture-based classes, the majority are discussion-oriented, with class time devoted to addressing questions contributed by both me and the students that are drawn from the readings for the day. I also regularly bring current research into my classes and I have a long history of mentoring both undergraduate and graduate students in independent research projects.
I hope that upon completion of one of my courses, a research experience with me, or a bachelor’s or graduate degree, students will have developed an appreciation, if not an outright love, for the subject matter presented and will be able to critically evaluate the knowledge they run across in the literature, in other classes, and in the popular press. Furthermore, I hope that they will leave all of my courses with ideas of how insights from my courses can be applied in their own lives, regardless of whether they pursue further work within academia or follow different paths.
Plagues and Peoples
Overview of the ecology of human host-pathogen interactions and the influence of human culture on the transmission and spread of infectious diseases through time and in different environments.
Cross-cultural study of belief systems concerning health and illness, practices of diagnosis and treatment, and roles of patients and practitioners. Several "non-Western" health care systems are studied in detail.
The major topics considered in this course are basic demographic analysis, including life tables, models for population growth and stable population theory; fertility analysis; disease and fertility; disease in human populations; and paleodemography.
Capstone Seminar in Anthropology
Readings, discussions, and problems in the integration of the subfields of anthropology through theory and examples.
Seminar in Ecological Adaptation
Occasional graduate seminars on topics of interest within the study of infectious diseases or demography.
M 2-3:30, Th 1:30-3 and by appointment