“Don’t Pack a Pest!” for student travelers: 

The Don’t Pack a Pest! (DPAP) for student travelers research aims to understand international and study-abroad student knowledge and awareness of the Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign, and develop appropriate pre-arrival education materials that are tailored for students. 

This work is part of the national  Don’t Pack a Pest! program, which was first launched in the 1990s by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to educate travelers about the risks associated with carrying prohibited food, plants, or other agricultural products in passenger luggage.

Why are invasive pests an issue?

Invasive species cause approximately $120 billion in damage and control costs annually throughout the U.S. (Pimentel et. al. 2005). A wide variety of damaging pests, plants, and diseases are regularly intercepted in U.S. ports by CBP officials as international travelers and cargo ships arrive from overseas. On average, at least one pest or disease is introduced into Florida every month, including pests new to the U.S (Don’t Pack a Pest, 2016). These can include pests and diseases such as avian influenza; Chinese mitten crabs; giant hogweeds; khapra beetles; Mexican fruit flies; live tortoises; chicken feet; all fresh fruits, vegetables, and plants; and more.  

Why work with university international student and study abroad programs?

International and study-abroad students are the largest group of international travelers. The United States hosts the largest number of international students of any country, and over the past 15 years the number of international students in the U.S has grown by 72 percent. Current trends show that international student enrollment is continually increasing each year. For example, Oregon State University alone has increased its international student enrollment six times faster than the U.S. average (source: INTO OSU). University of Southern California, with 12,000 international students, accounts for about ⅓ of all the international students enrolled in major California universities (source: International Student.com). Therefore, international and study-abroad  students and university programs are an ideal audience for expanding the reach of the Don’t Pack a Pest! program. Working with student travelers, including international and study-abroad students, offers mutual value and opportunity to engage in learning, and to be part of the solution to invasive species and positively affect the well-being of our society as a whole. This work seeks to engage students and institutions in learning how the Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign can be used to bring value to both students and their programs.

Why a research approach?

This project is unique in that it takes a science-based research approach to fully understand the current system of international student programs and student awareness and behavior. We will use this information to develop education and outreach tools for our Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign.

Research Objectives

  • Research international and study-abroad student knowledge and awareness of the Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign, as well as behaviors, and packing habits of student travelers.
  • Learn from and engage with university administrators on best practices for integrating DPAP outreach into international and study-abroad student programs.
  • Work in close partnership with and heed the guidance of port and invasive species officials (USDA, CBP, USFWS, DOAs, invasive species council) in all regions we are working in.
  • Use and test new knowledge to implement and guide improvements for the Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign.
  • Brand consistent regional messaging and coordinate a regional strategy for theDon’t Pack a Pest! campaign.

Student survey and lessons learned - Preliminary Results

We conducted a survey of Oregon International Students in 2016, in partnership with Oregon State University International Programs, Portland State University, University of Oregon, Lane Community College, Linn-Benton Community College, Portland Community College, and the Northern Oregon International Educators (NORIE).

Our Oregon International Student Survey asked students about their packing practices and motivations, current experiences with prohibited products, knowledge of and experience with the Dont Pack a Pest Camaign, and sources of information for student travelers, amongst other things. 

What did we learn from the survey?

  • International students are not aware of the Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign. Of the 714 students who took the survey, 626 had not heard of Don’t Pack a Pest!
  • Students are impacted by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations. Thirty-two percent of students who took the survey have had products confiscated at airports.
  • Students want more information about DPAP. In the survey, 82.87 percent agreed it would be helpful to include DPAP information as part of student orientation.
  • Students pointed to International Student Programs and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website as the primary place they would seek more information about prohibited items and the Don’t Pack a Pest! campaign.

Success through partnership building

Our institutional and agency partners are the backbone to the success of this project.

Our success rests in our international program partners in Oregon, including the NORIE association, who have worked with us to survey their international  students and provided critical feedback on the development of outreach materials. Accurate, researched-based information on student experiences and needs as they relate to understanding the Don’t Pack a Pest program will result in better information and support for the international and study-abroad student. 

We also work closely with our state and federal agency partners that are responsible for enforcing and monitoring travel regulations. These partners include USDA-APHIS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Oregon Invasive Species Council, Port of Portland, and State Agriculture Departments in Oregon. Our agency partners serve in an advisory role and as technical liaisons as we developed the research plan, outreach materials, and technical workshops.

Products available

As a result of our survey and partnership engagement, we created a draft outreach brochure for student travelers that is currently being piloted by Oregon Institutions. We welcome you to utilize this flyer, share it with your students, and give us feedback on how it can be improved.

We created an international student journey map that identifies critical steps and points of engagement that students experience as they start and complete the process of coming to study in the United States. The student journey map could be further developed and adapted to specifically describe the student experience at a certain institution or to describe the experience of a study-abroad student, or to identify critical control points after the student starts college and prior to going home on vacation.

DPAP Brochure for Student Travellers

Student Journey Map 

PDF iconStudent Journey Map 

Next steps for Don’t Pack a Pest!

We are currently working to expand our research to include partners from CA, WA, HI, OH, FL, and AK. In this phase, we will reach out to our regional partners and participating international and study-abroad programs to implement the student survey and develop DPAP materials that are adapted and tailored for integration into international and study-abroad programs at universities and colleges.

Join us! Become a DPAP Education and Research Partner

Would you like to join our growing network of partners working to develop the Don’t Pack a Pest! program for student travelers? We invite academic institutions to be part in this research-based effort to expand the DPAP for students by helping us to distribute our IRB-approved survey to their students.  In addition, we invite institutions to utilize our educational products as part of your international student or study-abroad programs. With your help, we can develop helpful information for your international or study-abroad students that supports their overall travel experience.

Our team

This project represents a diverse partnership, including state-level agencies, international student programs at universities and colleges, and international educator associations. We come together through a mutual interest in helping to protect our land and water from the impacts of invasive species, pests, and diseases. We aim to help all student travellers in understanding and easing the process of travel regulations.

Research Team at the Oregon Sea Grant College Program, Oregon State University:

  • Samuel Chan, Tania Siemens, Kayla-Maria Martin, Noelle Moen, Dulguun Baasansuren

Agency Partners:

  • Clint Burfitt and Helmuth Rogg, Oregon Department of Agriculture

  • Nicole Brooks, U.S Customs and Border Protection

  • Maureen Minister, Port of Portland

  • Chris Deegan and Mark Hitchcox, USDA-APHIS

Project Coordination and Design is led by Samara Group:

  • Jalene Littlejohn, Adriana Escobedo-Land, and Olivia Guethling

 

Additional resources:

Blog: The “Don’t Pack a Pest!” Campaign: Outreach to all International Educators

Dont Pack a Pest website and resources including guidelines on what is restricted.

Oregon Invasive Species Council

US Customs and Border Protection

United States Department of Agriculture  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service