Despite tremendous technological advances in the biological sciences and the use of new technologies to generate immense data sets in various life sciences subfields, the dynamics of biological processes like disease transmission or environmental degradation or ecological catastrophes are driven by human behavior or by human activities, all difficult to understand, model or quantify.
For example, traveling (airline or mass transportation) has always been an engine of disease transmission and evolution; sexual preferences, levels of sexual activity and intravenous drug use have driven and sustained HIV prevalence across the world; and when it comes down to homeland security the biggest threat is posed by the spread and prevalence of extreme or fanatic behaviors.
The role of environmental context (where and with whom people drink) on the dynamics of drinking using simple models and survey data on college drinking is explored. Specifically, the impact of local social mixing, college dropout rates, progression from problem to heavy drinking, and residence times in high- and low-risk environments, on the long-term dynamics and the prevalence of college drinking, are evaluated. Our analyses highlight the importance of characterizing the places where individuals drink, the connectivity structure between distinct drinking venues, and the strength of socialization within local environments.
The ecological problem for college drinking research is to quantify how contexts operate to encourage or to promote the emergence of problem drinking among college students.
This work has been carried out in collaboration with Anuj Mubayi, Priscilla Greenwood, Xiaohong Wang, Dennis M. Gorman, Paul Gruenewald, and Robert F Saltz.