The Don’t Pack a Pest! (DPAP) for Academic Travelers is a collaborative research-based project to inform outreach for academic travelers about the risks of traveling with agricultural items.

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, and other agricultural products in passenger luggage.

We are working to research and adapt the DPAP message for the academic traveler, including inclduing faculty, scholars, international students, study abroad students, or anyone traveling internationaly for their school or research.

We seek to colaborate with university/college international and study abroad programs, international agriculture programs, and faculty and scholars traveling internationally, to research and educate international travelers about the important Dont Pack a Pest message. Join our growing national partnership to improve your students traveling experience. 

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. 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 that are designed to support and improve international and study abroad programs. 

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 in which we are working.
  • 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 the Don’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). The survey asked students about their packing practices and motivations, current experiences with prohibited products, knowledge of and experience with the Don't Pack a Pest! campaign, and sources of information for student travelers, among 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, which has worked with us to survey its 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 served in an advisory role and as technical liaisons as we developed the research plan, outreach materials, and technical workshops.

Products available (DPAP Toolkit) 

As a result of our survey and partnership engagement, we created a draft "DPAP Toolkit" of resources that can be used by international and study abroad programs to share with thier students or colleagues. 

DPAP Brochure for Student Travelers. This quad fold brochure highlights some of the risks posed by invasive pests and provides examples of generally prohibited items. It also introduces the Don't Pack a Pest program and outlines the process for declaring items to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The brochure is also available as a pdf

Powerpoint Presentation. For student orientations or to share with administrators

Template language. For use on a website, email, or newsletter.

Video. A one-minute video starring U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural produce detection dog, Linus. Linus informs the traveling public about prohibited items and declaring agricultural items. 

Don't Pack a website and resources including guidelines on what is restricted

Message delivery opportunities guide. A guide on how to share the DPAP message developed for International and Study Abroad Program administrators 

International student journey map. 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. 

Next steps 

We are currently working to expand our research to include partners from CA, WA, HI, OH, MI, TX, 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.

This year we will also be holding regional student focus groups. The aim of the focus groups will be to gain an improved understanding of student’s experiences, knowledge, and behavior related to packing decisions and experiences through customs at airport border crossing. We will also ask them to review and provide feedback on our initial “Don’t Pack a Pest” educational products (brochure, luggage tags, video, and website).

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 of this research-based effort to expand the DPAP for students by helping us 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 travelers in understanding and easing the process of travel regulations.

Research Team: 

  • Samuel Chan, Tania Siemens, Kayla-Maria Martin, Noelle Moen, Dulguun Baasansuren. Oregon Sea Grant College Program, Oregon State University.

  • Linda Chilton, University of Southern California Sea Grant.

Oregon Partners:

  • Clint Burfitt and Helmuth Rogg, Oregon Department of Agriculture

  • Nicole Brooks, U.S Customs and Border Protection

  • Maureen Minister, Port of Portland

  • Emily Bosanquet, Pacific Northwest College of Art

  • Chris Deegan and Mark Hitchcox, USDA-APHIS

National Agency Partners:

  • David Pegos, California Department of Food and Agriculture

  • Christina Bunch, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

  • Heather Curlett, USDA APHIS. Washington DC

  • Mark Hitchcox, USDA APHIS, Ohio

  • Julie Scott, USDA APHIS PPQ, Illinois

  • Heidi Kennedy, USDA APHIS SITC, Illinois

  • Eunett James-Mack, Customs and Border Protection, Florida

Additional resources:

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

Don't 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

Contact Us

Please contact us at with questions or for more information about participating in this research.