Meet Chris Kilonzo, HALI's New Blogger & Post-doc

Christopher Kilonzo is a veterinarian and epidemiologist who was born and raised in Kenya. He is now a postdoc working on the HALI project in Tanzania who will be sharing photos and stories on this blog. We’re excited to have him on board and we look forward to seeing what he shares!

As an introduction, we asked him a few questions about his new position with HALI and what excites him most. But first, a bit more about his background:

Chris attended primary and high school in Nairobi before joining the University of Nairobi to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine. His interest in public health and zoonoses (diseases transmissible from animals to humans) led him to join UC Davis for a graduate degree in Preventive veterinary medicine.

Chris graduated with the MPVM (Masters in Preventive Veterinary Medicine) in 2010, where his research focused on the epidemiology of E. coli O157:H7 in sheep populations in California. Shortly thereafter, he worked on several food safety research projects as a junior research specialist with the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security (WIFSS). Chris joined the Graduate Group in Epidemiology in 2011 and recently completed his PhD in Epidemiology focusing on zoonotic foodborne pathogens in wild rodents in California agricultural farms. Chris is married to Victoria, who is also a veterinarian.

1. What life experience had the biggest impact on your decision to do the work you’ll be doing with HALI? 

Witnessing the disease burden and devastation associated with zoonoses, particularly in African countries such as Kenya where I grew up. It has by far had the largest influence on my career path and decision to work with HALI. I am excited about joining the team and I believe a One Health approach is fundamental to zoonotic disease research, particularly in African societies where domestic and wild animals are often found in close proximity to humans.

2. What excites you most about moving to Tanzania to work with HALI? 

I am excited about the opportunity to meet and interact with the HALI team and the new One Health research projects we plan on undertaking. I am also excited about exploring the country and experiencing new cultures and cuisines.

3. Tell us a story about your work as a field veterinarian.

Working as a field veterinarian in Kenya requires a lot of tenacity and patience. In veterinary school, we had to do a lot of hands-on clinical training particularly dealing with livestock and companion animals. After vet school I thought I had gathered enough experience to bravely go out into the world and practice. The situation out in the field is typically very different as I came to realize. Many rural small-scale farmers are illiterate, poor and struggle to afford veterinary care for their animals. It is a challenge explaining to them the importance and benefits of a certain procedure or therapy and often times a veterinarian has to make due with the little that a farmer can afford for veterinary services. My first case fresh out of veterinary school was a cow with a retained afterbirth or placenta. This condition occurs when the placental tissues fail to detach from the uterine wall. If the afterbirth isn’t expelled soon after birth, uterine infection and illness could occur. The cow in this case had a history of a difficult calving and was therefore unable to naturally expel the afterbirth.

Because several days had passed since the calving, the afterbirth had begun to decompose and the cow was severely infected as evidenced by fever. I had to manually remove the afterbirth and brave through the smell, knowing well that the cow’s life hung in the balance. Fortunately, after a dose of antibiotics, the cow later fully recovered and went about its normal routine of chewing curd and suckling its newborn calf. Unfortunately for me, I had to endure the foul smell, which lingered all the way home, but such is the life of a veterinarian.

4. You were born in Nairobi and frequently visited and spent time in rural Kenya. What was it like, and have things changed for rural families in Kenya since you were a child?

I grew up in Nairobi, which is an urban city, and spent many holidays and weekends in rural Kenya visiting my grandparents and extended family. As a child we looked forward to these visits, as we were free to explore the terrain and play with our cousins and friends sometimes until very late in the day, something we couldn’t do in Nairobi due to insecurity.

Things have definitely changed for rural families over the years. There has been a lot of rural-to-urban migration and a lot of the people I used to interact with have moved to urban areas in search of employment. There have been improvements in infrastructure and road networks are better, making movement and transportation much easier.

Electric power has been directed to the various homesteads through government-backed rural electrification programs facilitating the use of electrical appliances and equipment. With improved infrastructure and amenities, many people in rural areas have been able to dig boreholes and pump water directly into storage tanks eliminating the need to walk long distances to laboriously fetch water from rivers and lakes. I have also seen an increase in zero grazing systems of animal production where livestock are confined and fed rather than let out to graze. Such systems have helped to maximize land use and have contributed to a reduction in the spread of livestock diseases.

There has also been an increase in use of cellphones as cellphone coverage has rapidly spread throughout the country. Today I can easily talk to my grandmother in village no matter where I am in the world, something that was impossible growing up. Improved telecommunication has also had positive effects for the animal industry in Kenya as farmers can now easily call their veterinarian in case they need urgent veterinary assistance for their animals.

Ruth Maganga introducing Chris and the team to the viral molecular diagnostics lab.

Ruth Maganga introducing Chris and the team to the viral molecular diagnostics lab.

5. You are a veterinarian and have just finished your PhD work, which represents a long road of training and research experiences. What life skills or stories do you think of as keys to your success?

I believe that developing a passion for veterinary medicine and research, setting goals for success early in my career and working hard to see them to fruition have all been important keys to my success. Additionally, seeking and identifying mentors who have guided me through my training and research has played a big role in my achievements.

6. What is your perspective on the roles of veterinarians in society today, since we can now do much more than what many people thought of as a career in pet medicine or livestock health?

Veterinarians have very important roles to play in society and are not just limited to clinical practice as many people think. Over the years, veterinarians have made significant contributions to multiple disciplines including public health, food safety and security, animal welfare, environmental protection and conservation, policy development and biomedical research.

For example, majority of emerging infectious diseases today are zoonotic and veterinarians together with physicians and other health professionals are playing critical roles to improve public health by actively preventing disease outbreaks and educating the public on preventative measures. As a result, One Health multidisciplinary approaches to tackling diseases have gained popularity as people acknowledge the mutual benefits of such efforts

Veterinarians are progressively getting involved in food security issues as the demand for safe, fresh food products increases as a result of a concomitant increase in human populations. Similarly, veterinarians are playing important roles in enhancing food safety, as we recognize the potential threats of agro-terrorism and inadvertent cross-border introduction of animal pathogens.

Veterinarians are also actively involved in educating the public about animal welfare issues and the societal benefits of good animal husbandry practices. Veterinarians are also making  key contributions to biomedical research and the development of new therapies and drugs.

Questions by Justin Cox, Woutrina Smith, and David Wolking

Why is the African Buffalo Population Declining in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park?

By Annette Roug, for Safari Club International Foundation

The African buffalo population in Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park may be in decline.

Little is known about their ecology and health, but researchers from the Health for Animals and Livelihood Improvement (HALI) Project at the University of California, Davis and Sokoine University of Agriculture have partnered with Ruaha National Park to study the population in the hope of better understanding the decline.

As of September 2014, 30 young African buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) had been tested for bovine tuberculosis. The team from HALI and Ruaha National Park also conducted two dry-season demographic surveys and herd-level parasite screenings as well as an aerial population survey in collaboration with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute.

Research showed that bovine tuberculosis is present in the buffalo population, which appears to be reduced in animal numbers. Herd composition has varied from year to year and may be dependent on rain. The herd level gastrointestinal parasite counts were low.

But several questions remain unanswered.

“There is very little information about the buffalo home ranges, habitat preference, and seasonal movements,” said Annette Roug, a veterinary epidemiologist with the HALI Project. “Such information is important for understanding how the buffaloes use the ecosystem and its surrounding game reserves throughout the year.”

It will also help us determine which herds approach or cross the park borders, exposing them to increased risk for poaching and disease transmission between buffaloes and pastoralist livestock.

In 2014, the team was awarded a grant from Safari Club International Foundation to begin addressing these questions. That fall, the team conducted the third annual demographic survey of the buffaloes in the park and captured and collared 10 adult females.

During those surveys, two large herds and several smaller groups were encountered, some in the same areas as in 2011 and 2013. All herds appeared to be in good health and had low parasite loads.

Buffaloes were darted from vehicles, collared with a satellite GPS collar, sampled, and released. Only adult female buffalo were collared because the movement of female buffaloes is more representative of the herd movements, and females are less likely to damage the collars. A total of 10 buffaloes were sampled and collared across 4 different locations.

The satellite-based locations of collared buffaloes are being monitored remotely, and buffaloes are also located regularly to determine herd size, assess health and to record habitat preferences. As recently as February, the team located herds with collared buffaloes from a plane and from the ground.

The project has already provided a wealth of new information for Ruaha National Park. It is now clear that different buffalo herds inhabit distinct home ranges and for the first time the park has obtained information on wet-season movements. Collars will be monitored over the next two years and will help Ruaha conserve and manage the park’s buffaloes.

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Three Days Among Ruaha's Buffalo Herds in the Wet Season

 In October 2014, HALI and Ruaha National Park researchers sampled and placed satellite GPS collars on 10 adult female buffaloes in order to learn more about the health and herd movements of the Ruaha buffalo population.

Below you’ll find three days of dispatches from the most recent buffalo survey work. For a basic overview of the project, listen to this interview with David Wolking. Annette Roug is leading the HALI buffalo research in the park.

The goal of the wet-season buffalo survey was to determine herd sizes, locate collared buffaloes, and if possible, assess herd composition. We also wanted to record habitat types in areas most frequently used by the buffaloes during the wet season.
 
Day 1, February 25
Ruaha National Park graciously provided a plane that enabled us to conduct an initial survey from the air. We saw and photographed all but one of the buffalo herds with collared animals from the plane. Four animals were located north of Jongomero, one between Msembe and Jongomoro, one near Mdonya, and four in a remote section of the park that is located on a higher elevation plateau which is void of water in the dry season. These aerial photographs will help us determine herd sizes and better understand how the herd sizes are changing over the seasons.

Picture 1: A buffalo herd photographed from the air.


Picture 1: A buffalo herd photographed from the air.

In the afternoon we proceeded to search for the buffalo herds from the ground, and successfully located the herd seen near Mdonya. We were lucky and saw the collared buffalo. She was in great condition and the collar appeared to fit well. We did condition scoring of all visible buffaloes, estimated herd composition, and took notes regarding the vegetation in the area.

Picture 2: Collared buffalo near Mdonya on February 25th.

Picture 2: Collared buffalo near Mdonya on February 25th.

Day 2, Thursday February 26
We went north of Jongomero to locate a large herd with 4 collared buffaloes. On the way from Msembe to Jongomero we listened for one buffalo known to be with a smaller group using a VHF antenna and receiver. This was the group we had not been able to see from the air. We heard a clear signal but she was across the Ruaha River.

North of Jongomero we came very close to the collared animals and heard the VHF signals of all of them. We went off road to see the herd(s), but they kept moving in front of us (based on the many tracks and warm feces). The vegetation was very thick, brushy, and sometimes also muddy, so it was very difficult to drive. We saw a few buffaloes but they were very nervous and ran off into thick bush where we could not follow. We recorded the vegetation types of the area, approximated the herd size and recorded observations of the buffaloes we had seen. On the way back to Msembe we listened for the smaller group again, but she was still across the river. Daniel Mathayo (Ruaha National Park ecologist) said the river was high right now, so she likely would not cross back anytime soon.

Day 3, Friday February 27
From our collar data and the aerial survey we knew that the remaining four collared buffaloes were up on the higher elevation plateau, out of the Rift Valley. A ranger reported that he had seen a buffalo herd near the road to Mpululu (located on the plateau) the night before. We had not planned to drive up onto the plateau since there are only few roads and it gets very muddy after rain. However, the ranger reported that the road to Mpululu was open, so we went up there to try to see the herds.

We heard the VHF signal of 3 of the 4 collared buffaloes at different times and came within 2 km of the last location of one of the buffaloes (logged at 5 am Friday morning). We tried to drive toward the signal but kept running into water or very muddy areas. There were also a lot of thorn bushes, and we had one puncture (asante Erasto for changing the tire).

In the end we found a drier grassy area and managed to drive for a while towards the signals. After a few kilometers we were blocked off by a huge "korongo" (a seasonal waterway) with a 100 feet drop to the bottom. That was the end of it! We still could hear the signals there, but had to turn around.

Picture 3: Challenging wet season driving near Jongomero.

Picture 3: Challenging wet season driving near Jongomero.

We described the vegetation of the area (so we obtained useful information from the adventure) but did not see the animals. We have decent aerial pictures of those herds, so we will still be able to estimate herd size and possibly get some information on herd composition.

--

Overall, we accomplished the main goals of the exercise, which was to estimate the wet season herd sizes and understand more about the seasonal habitat preference, but due to the tick vegetation and wet terrain, we were unable to reach all the herds. We are thankful to Ruaha National Park for the great collaboration on this project.

Field Diary: Home Sweet Home

This field blog is written by Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Read more about Kelley

January 31, 2015

The HALI family has finally made it home to their field station and office in Iringa. After familiarizing our new members with the Iringa HALI home and facilities, the team headed out into the surrounding villages to continue their assessment of local clinics. These clinics are in communities that have, historically, had RVFV and Brucella cases and that also have high levels of human and livestock interaction. Some of the clinics the team visited were previously used in UC Davis’ studies involving Tuberculosis and were ready to collaborate on new research projects. A quick thank you to the clinics and professionals who work in them for taking the time to show us your facilities. 

Field Diary: Two New Projects

This field blog is written by Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Read more about Kelley

January 30, 2015

With new funding from generous donors, the HALI Team is back at it again with two new projects in Tanzania that are looking into bacterial and viral sharing across human and animal populations in geographic areas of high climatic and animal diversity. 

Malaria is a household name in Tanzania, and the center of attention in health communities throughout the country. It’s high prevalence historically increased awareness and action against the disease. Although the parasite still infects and affects many throughout Tanzania it is not the only febrile illness in the country. By partnering with local clinics in rural areas the HALI project is hoping to characterize and analyze other potential causes of diseases like bacteria and viruses that could be causing febrile symptoms in patients alongside or instead of malaria. But first, the clinics have to be identified and assessed.

This week, the HALI team has been visiting several health centers and clinics in the Kilombero and Iringa districts to assess their facilities with the hope of partnering for future sample collection. At each clinic the HALI team is looking for several key factors that will help to ensure successful sample and data collection. They are looking for both an adequate patient caseload of patients presenting with febrile illness symptoms and also for clinic laboratory settings to determine whether or not each facility has the ability to test for other zoonotic agents that could be causing the febrile symptoms.  One added bonus is that the clinics are close to either the SUA or IHI labs where more in depth analysis and testing could be done.

From what we’ve seen so far, most clinics throughout the three regions are extremely familiar with both Malaria and Typhoid fever. They are not as comfortable, however, diagnosing or identifying other febrile illnesses like RVFV and Brucella, which may also be affecting the local populations. Our team is looking to explore the prevalence of these other diseases along with potentially identifying novel viruses and potential disease causing agents in the area to see if there has been cross over between the animal and human populations. In addition to increasing awareness in local populations about zoonotic diseases, the HALI team also aims to develop models that will predict areas of increased pathogen activity, transmission and economic diversity to target areas in Tanzania that are ideal for surveillance and interventions designed to improve disease prevention and heath. 

Field Diary: A Photographer On Board

This field blog is written by Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Read more about Kelley

January 29, 2015

Sam Eaton, journalist for Public Radio International’s program “The World” joined the HALI Team for a day and a half. He was along for the ride as they traveled from Morogoro to Kilombero and Ifakara looking at potential clinics to collect future data and samples. Sam is interested in UC Davis’ PREDICT project and the spread of zoonotic diseases in Tanzania. Listen for his story, and our featured contributors (Dr. Mazet, Dr. Kazwala, and Dr. Sijali) in the coming year on Public Radio International.

 

Field Diary: Admiring the Human-Animal Interface

This field blog is written by Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Read more about Kelley

January 29, 2015

Mikumi National Park was teeming with wildlife in the early morning hours as the team headed from Morogoro to Ifakara. While passing through the National Park the team was lucky enough to see twiga (giraffes), tembo (elephants), swala (impala), punda milia (zebras), nyati (water buffalo), and nyani (baboons). 

Mikumi was also the first sighting of the human and animal interface and interaction as a herd of elephants stalled traffic on the highway. As Goodluck said, the plethora of wildlife was a good sign for the rest of the day’s activities!

Field Diary: A New Partnership

This field blog is written by Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Read more about Kelley

January 26, 2015

With two new research projects on the horizon, the HALI family is growing once again. UC Davis and Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) have now partnered with the Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) in Tanzania.

The new partnership will add experience and expertise in human health to complement the veterinary, wildlife and public health backgrounds already brought by UC Davis and SUA. The HALI project will welcome three new family members: Dr. Catherine Mkindi, Dr. Robert Sumaye, and Solomon Mwakasungula.

We look forward to working with, sharing knowledge, growing and laughing with them in the coming years.  

-- Kelley

Meet Kelley Pascoe, Guest Field Blogger

We’ll be running a field diary on the blog over the next few days. The narrator of those posts will be Kelley Pascoe, who recently traveled to Tanzania with HALI Co-Directors Jonna Mazet and Woutrina Smith. Here’s a bit about Kelley before we begin sharing her field diary on the blog: 

KELLEY PASCOE (FAR RIGHT) IN TANZANIA. 

KELLEY PASCOE (FAR RIGHT) IN TANZANIA. 

1. Where are you from? How old are you? Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I actually grew up in Davis and to some extent in the halls of the veterinary school with two parents as professors and vets. Some of my fondest memories are playing in the barns or in the lecture halls with my brother while our parents finished out the work day. I’ve spent the time since leaving Davis exploring different passions and interests from working for four years in an evolutionary genetics lab in Seattle to rafting over 4,000 river miles in the past eight years as a professional whitewater raft guide for a California environmentally focused non-profit. I still have an interest in the health field and am continuing to explore career, volunteer and educational options while still making a priority to spend a large chunk of every year outside in the fresh air, on the water and nights under the stars.

2. Where did you go to school and what did you study? 

I attended the University of Washington in Seattle for my undergraduate education. While at UW I studied and completed degrees in chemistry and biochemistry.  Although I’m sure my high school chemistry teacher would have put money on the fact that I wouldn’t have stepped foot in a chemistry class again, I loved watching the interactions of the physical world around me on the scale of particles--it’s beautiful. Plus it has the added bonus of sitting in laboratories and performing experiments while the rest of my friends were always buried in the seemingly endless papers they were writing.

3. What interests you most about HALI? 

I was really intrigued by the One Health approach and the interface between human and animal populations. Health, especially on an international scale, is a kaleidoscope--constantly changing and evolving with new patterns and interactions all the time across species and globally. The HALI family and project take the the time to devote energy and passion into a multifaceted and multi-targeted approach to research and healthcare on an international level. 

4. Was this your first time in Tanzania? 

It was both my first time in Tanzania and in Africa. It’s an absolutely beautiful and colorful country that stole a little piece of my heart. 

5. What was your favorite part of the trip?

That’s a tough one since it was such a great trip all around. One of my favorite parts of travelling in general is the food. It’s always nice getting to taste and experience food in the country it originated in, with local ingredients. Food is also one of the best ways to connect with people through a shared meal, a shared experience based in pleasure. Plus, ugali is just plain fun to eat. Alongside the food, I was also quite taken with what I’ll call the Tanzanian smile. The Tanzanian smile is the smile that we all wish would come through in photographs--the natural, instantaneous smile that indicates true happiness in the moment. It’s usually accompanied by a laugh too, a laugh that shakes the whole body and is infectious, spreading throughout the group. It’s a beautiful thing.

How do you make a project sustainable?

A few weeks ago I was invited to present at the UC Davis Student’s for One Health Club's Project Design Workshop on making a project sustainable.  The intent was to use HALI as a case study of project sustainability, a shining model for others to learn from and follow. But in preparing for the workshop, I confronted two unanticipated concepts:

  1. Sustainability for a research project is very tricky and maybe not all that relevant.
  2. While we strive towards a vision of sustainability for HALI, viability may be a more realistic goal.

There is an abundance of literature on sustainability and how to design sustainable projects, from the development toolkit to energy and natural resource management.  I promised to share a few with the Students for One Health group, so to keep my promise, here you go (IFAD's Sustainability of Rural Development Projects and PSU's Project Sustainability Manual).

For more, you can simply Google “how to make a project sustainable” and find all you need to get started. I did.  More useful in my opinion is communicating the challenges a project like HALI confronts in working towards a definition of sustainability. Let's get started.

How do you make a collaborative research and capacity building project like HALI sustainable?

What does sustainability even mean in this context? Does it have to be Venn diagram ready? What about viability, where does it fit into the picture?

Conventionally, sustainability and viability are different sides of the same coin separated only by time, where sustainability is viability over the long-term. HALI is a pretty good example of a viable research project.

The HALI Story  - A Decade of Hits (well almost…)

Viable projects generate info-graphics.

Viable projects generate info-graphics.

Once upon a time, 2006 in fact and with funding from USAID, HALI began as a partnership between UC Davis, the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Vermont and other local Tanzanian organizations uniting multiple disciplines in a One Health approach to investigate the epidemiology and impact of zoonotic diseases on health and livelihoods in the Ruaha Ecosystem.  The initial USAID support lasted until 2009 (with the addition of other small grants), and our research team leveraged the capacity and infrastructure developed in the first 3 years along with research findings to secure a new collaboration with UC San Francisco and the Tanzania National Institute for Medical Research. Under this new collaboration, HALI was awarded NIH funds to further expand our One Health approach to investigate the epidemiology of tuberculosis and Brucella in the area, including medical surveillance of local clinics and sampling of people in HALI study communities. 

Around the same time, an international consortium led by the UC Davis One Health Institute was awarded the USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT project, which included Tanzania as a priority country for strengthening disease surveillance at high-risk human-animal interfaces for spillover and transmission of potentially pandemic viruses from wildlife to people.  Since HALI had already established core capacity in disease surveillance, especially wildlife disease surveillance (thanks Envirovet Summer Institute!), PREDICT invested in HALI and Sokoine University of Agriculture’s (SUA) Faculty of Veterinary Medicine as the Tanzania implementing partner. Through PREDICT, HALI expanded in scope from Ruaha to other parts of Tanzania and further developed the diagnostic capacity at SUA for viral detection.

In 2010, HALI also received an award to build-on research in health and livelihood improvement back home in the Ruaha Ecosystem through the USAID-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab - Collaborative Research for Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change. The HALI 2.0 project was forged, continuing efforts working at the community level to strengthen livestock health and pastoralist nutrition and livelihoods.

In 2013-14, through capacity developed with USAID and NIH support and relationships made during PREDICT, HALI forged another partnership with Metabiota with support from a new US Federal Agency. Two more One Health projects were designed, one exploring the epidemiology of Rift Valley Fever and Brucella in the Kilombero and Iringa regions and the other investigating viral transmission of bat, non-human primate, and human populations sharing forest fragment ecosystems in and around the Udzungwa Mountains National Park.  Our team is actually in Tanzania right now doing initial site and scoping visits with SUA and a new addition to the HALI family, the Ifakara Health Institute.

Finally, in October of this year, UC Davis and the PREDICT consortium were successfully awarded USAID funds to continue PREDICT under the second phase of the Emerging Pandemic Threats program.  As with the first round of PREIDCT, HALI is implementing the project in Tanzania.

In sum, from 2009 to 2015, HALI research has been supported by 3 major US government agencies investing in 7 major collaborative research and capacity building projects. Additional funds from smaller grants including USFWS Wildlife Without Borders and Safari Club International to name a few, dramatically enhanced our programs and overall viability and let us do really cool things like partner with Ruaha National Park on understanding African Buffalo population trends, health, and movement patterns.

But let's get back to where we started, viability.

HALI is a very successful and viable project.

We are fortunate to have a great team of scientists and collaborators from around the world that continue to push our research and impact forward at multiple levels, from field assistants working at the community interface to staff scientists and Principal Investigators interfacing with ministry and agency partners. There is a tremendous amount of energy invested in continued capacity strengthening for our team and in identifying new opportunities when existing projects approach their natural end. We even have a rubric, yes a rubric for evaluating if opportunities are a good fit with our core vision and approach. There have been some lean years and some uncertain times when we weren’t sure of HALI’s future and our ability to retain our amazing team and continue our work, but overall we have weathered the storms and find ourselves in 2015 with five major programs running simultaneously out of our UC Davis and SUA-based hubs. We are even hiring, always a good sign.

But is HALI sustainable?

Despite all of our successes, HALI today is not sustainable, at least not under a conventional definition of sustainability where the project operates independently over long-term horizons. As a research program, we are and likely will be always dependent on some level of donor or agency funding and investment, opportunities that ebb and flow in an extremely competitive and political climate over which we have no control.  I challenge any project operating in this environment to convince me of its sustainability. Except maybe PARIMA, that was some great work and took a few decades.

So what is a sustainable research project?

Is it one that facilitates lasting change and impact long after the funding stream dries out? One that cranks out high-impact publications of relevance and interest with tons of citations? Research for development that informs successful interventions? One that trains scientists who over long careers train another generation of scientists ensuring the creation and continuation of knowledge over time?

With these in mind, some elements of HALI seem very sustainable. For example, knowledge created and shared through higher education and in training a new generation of Tanzanian scientists in One Health, and the potentially long-lasting impacts of our disease awareness and environmental education programs in primary schools. 

Big Dreams Need Big Teams!

Our project does have visions of sustainability, just no pre-determined plan.  We even have an annual “Visioning Meeting” to talk about this stuff, it’s where we developed that rubric!   The challenge for HALI is in designing a “sustainability” plan in a context where the concept of sustainability itself is so obscure.  Sustainability in 2006 would have been a wildly different discussion and road map than what we would draw-up today.

Despite this challenge, our dedicated efforts towards viability have enabled considerable progress down that road, wherever it may lead.  As HALI evolves, so too does our vision of what sustainability could be.  A strength of HALI has always been our partnerships and shared commitment to improving health and livelihoods, and our ability to adapt to meet new challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Next year we celebrate the project’s 10th birthday. HALI is all grown up. A decade of hits.  A lot has changed since 2006: new research, new team members and institutions, new study areas, new directions. But the overall vision and culture remain the same, along with dedication and commitment.  For project sustainability’s sake, maybe that’s all that matters.

Is the Buffalo Population Declining in Ruaha National Park?

The HALI project collared about 10 buffalo in Ruaha National Park in 2014 in hopes of learning more about where the herds go throughout the year. We sat down with David Wolking (the guy who used to helm this blog) to talk about the project a few weeks ago as part of the One Health Institute’s monthly radio show. Listen to our conversation below. 

The African buffalo population is thought to be declining in the park, which is at the transition zone of Miombo Woodlands and southern African Acacia Savanna. The buffalo are known to migrate quite a distance, but nobody knows exactly were they go, how far they go, or how the population changes over time. 

Are disease implications playing a role? Possibly. 

That’s what long-time UC Davis postdoctoral researcher Annette Roug, who is leading the project, hopes to find out. We’ll follow the movement of the buffalo as data is gathered, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated in this space, so check back. 

-- Justin Cox 

Hi, We're HALI's New Bloggers

Up until now, the HALI blog was largely in the hands of the UC Davis One Health Institute's David Wolking, who cultivated a casual yet informative space for the telling of the HALI Project's stories. David's role within the One Health Institute has evolved over the past year, to the point that it now makes sense for him to pass the privilege along to some new bloggers. That's what this post is about. 

I'm Justin Cox, and I'll be running this blog alongside my colleague, Desiree Aguiar, for the foreseeable future. As a sort of passing of the baton, we had David ask us five questions of his choosing, which could give you some insight into who we are as people and how we'll approach this blog. You'll hear more from us in future posts, but for now, you can read that interview below. 

But first, a quick note that David isn't going anywhere. His office is about 35 steps away from mine and Desiree's, so his knowledge and experience will remain. 

David: What exactly do you do for the UC Davis One Health Institute?

Justin: I help the One Health Institute tell their stories, mostly online but also in print. That means everything form press releases and reports to our quarterly multimedia publication, Evotis.

Desiree: I work to connect with people. My biggest goals are to let people know who we are and what we do, and keep in touch with our current supporters. Posting to our social media sites, working events, and keeping administrative processes going in the One Health Institute are all important aspects of my work.

David: What led you to a career telling stories about One Health?

Justin: My background is in journalism. I was a reporter for a newspaper and an editor for a couple of websites before joining the One Health Institute. I love telling stories online because there are so many tools available to help convey the subject matter in interesting ways. 

Desiree: I come from a public relations background, so I believe that the best way to communicate with people is to tell them stories. I am a writer at heart, and love sharing new information with people. Writing about One Health is fascinating because it is relevant to everyone.

David: Have you ever been to Tanzania? If not, what’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

Justin: I have not been to Tanzania, or Africa at all, for that matter. But I would jump at the opportunity if it presented itself. As for travel I have done: I spent a year living in Spain in college and I traveled across China with my grandpa for three weeks shortly after graduating. Those were both amazing experiences. I also happily married into an Ecuadorian family a couple of years ago, and my wife and I traveled to the Galapagos Islands for our honeymoon, which was unforgettable as well. 

Desiree: Unfortunately I have not been to Tanzania, but traveling to Africa has always been a goal of mine. My most extensive travel experience to date was my six-week trip to Israel during college. I was also able to tack-on traveling to London for a week. I really enjoyed interacting with the unique mixture of people in Israel and experiencing the many cultures represented there. I made a few friends that I still keep in touch with! 

David: Unapenda ugali? Do you understand Kiswahli and do you like to eat ugali? (like eating grits with your hands - a staple over there)

Justin: I don’t understand Kiswahli, but I would eat those grits with my hands in a heartbeat.

Desiree: Eating grits with my hands sounds fantastic, and no I do not understand Kiswahli.

David: What is your vision for telling HALI's story to the world?

Justin: My vision for telling HALI’s story is to make this blog a vehicle through which those doing the actual work can tell their stories. The people making HALI a reality in Tanzania are busy doing their jobs, so it’s not automatic for them to dream up a blog post and make the stories available to the world. My goal will be to keep an eye on the work they’re doing and capture those stories as often as possible, because it would be unfortunate for them to go untold. 

Desiree: Telling stories is a great way to spread the word on the important work of the HALI team. I’m sure that there are tons of HALI stories out there, waiting to be told. My vision and hope is that through this blog, and other online outlets, we can find more opportunities to bring the HALI story full circle.

Interested in joining the HALI team?

HALI is currently looking for a few highly trained, motivated and experienced research professionals for new projects investigating the epidemiology of zoonotic diseases among wildlife, domestic animals, and people in Tanzania. These are postdoctoral research positions based at the HALI field and lab stations in Iringa and Morogoro. To learn more about the research projects, required background and qualifications, check out the position descriptions below.  

For more information, or to apply, please send a cover letter, CV and at least 3 letters of reference to HALI's Operations Manager David Wolking (djwolking@ucdavis.edu) by December 1st, 2014.




Foraging for Emerging Viruses

HALI Scientist Dr. Liz Vanwormer from UC Davis led a team into the forests of the Udzungwa Mountains to track baboons and monkeys and forage for specimens for the PREDICT project.  These specimens are now at the UC Davis laboratory where they will undergo screening for viruses as part of a global initiative funded by USAID designed to detect and prevent the spillover of pathogens from animals to people.  

Knowledge is Power: Pastoralists Request Education to Improve Livelihoods in Tanzania

Pastoralists at focus groups in the Ruaha Ecosystem voiced concern about climate change impacting livestock health and livelihoods and requested more education to increase their resiliency.  HALI is working to tailor locally relevant education to these communities on livestock health, disease, and productivity, and eventually through programs in human nutrition.  Photo by C. Gustafson.

Pastoralists at focus groups in the Ruaha Ecosystem voiced concern about climate change impacting livestock health and livelihoods and requested more education to increase their resiliency.  HALI is working to tailor locally relevant education to these communities on livestock health, disease, and productivity, and eventually through programs in human nutrition.  Photo by C. Gustafson.

- David Wolking

In rural Tanzania, pastoralists and their livestock are increasingly vulnerable to a changing climate.  Diminished rainfall, and increasing rates of deforestation and agricultural intensification stress existing rangeland availability and productivity, and pressure pastoral communities to adapt traditional production and livelihoods for survival.

Previous HALI project research identified infectious disease as a major production limitation with impacts on rural incomes and food security.  But the HALI team led by Drs. Christopher Gustafson and Liz VanWormer, and Asha Makweta also wanted to know what pastoralists considered the main challenges to livestock production and livelihood improvement.

Locally relevant education has the potential to make pastoralists’ livestock herds and livelihoods more resilient in a landscape rapidly being altered by environmental change.

In a new research brief published by the Colorado State University led Livestock and Climate Change CRSP, the HALI team describes results of focus groups held with pastoralist representatives and local leaders in 21 villages in the Ruaha Ecosystem.  In addition to confirming initial research findings emphasizing the importance of disease on health and livelihoods, focus group findings identified a critical intervention request: education.  All focus groups identified education as a key priority in improving livestock health and increasing resiliency.  While recognizing water shortages, availability and access to markets, veterinary services, and availability of medicines and other factors as challenges, education was stressed as a mechanism to empower pastoral communities that are frequently undeserved and marginalized by exiting infrastructure.  To pastoralists in the HALI community, knowledge is power, and providing locally relevant and customized education has the potential to increase resiliency of livelihoods and a lifestyle under siege from rapid environmental change.

Read or download the full research brief: "Pastoralist perspectives on livestock health, likelihood improvement, and environmental change in rural Tanzania" on our Issuu page.





New Publication - The best ways to reduce human exposure to M. bovis in pastoralist households

In a pastoralist boma (livestock pen) a woman milks her cow into the traditional gourd used for milk storage.  New HALI research shows that in areas where control of bovine tuberculosis is not an option, the best strategy to reduce exposure of people to milk infected with Mycobacterium bovis is by boiling the milk.

In a pastoralist boma (livestock pen) a woman milks her cow into the traditional gourd used for milk storage.  New HALI research shows that in areas where control of bovine tuberculosis is not an option, the best strategy to reduce exposure of people to milk infected with Mycobacterium bovis is by boiling the milk.

This week a new HALI publication was released on Preventive Veterinary Medicine.  The article led by Dr. Annette Roug tackles the challenging issue of reducing exposure of pastoralists in the Ruaha Landscape of Tanzania to Mycobacterium bovis, a pathogen that can be transmitted from livestock to people through milk and that can cause tuberculosis.  In most areas of the world, testing for M. bovis is done in dairy herds and at the expense of the dairy owner.  In the community where HALI works, costs for testing and disease control are simply too much for pastoral producers.  So, Dr. Roug and her team evaluated different methods that could reduce exposure of people to infected milk using a Reed-Frost model, a mathematical model for epidemics that looks at how an epidemic behaves over time.

The model, using a 10-year simulation period, showed that "boiling milk 80% of the time is necessary to obtain a reduction in liters of infectious milk approximately equivalent to what would be obtained with a standard 2-year testing and removal regimen, and that boiling milk was more effective than animal test and removal early in the time period."

The model results also showed that even M. bovis testing and removing infected cattle, "a residual risk of exposure to infectious milk remained due to imperfect sensitivity of the skin test and a continuous risk of introduction of infectious animals from other herds."  No test is perfect, and in the Ruaha landscape where herds often mix in grazing areas or grow and shrink in trades and gifts, there is no perfect way to control for M. bovis using the same methods promoted in commercial operations.  

According to Dr. Roug, until bTB control programs can be implemented in these areas, the best strategy for protecting people from exposure to M. bovis is through treating milk, by boiling it to kill the bacteria.

Comparison of intervention methods for reducing human exposure to Mycobacterium bovis through milk in pastoralist households of Tanzania at ScienceDirect...

Evotis Volume 3 - Spillover

Evotis Volume 3 - Spillover (www.evotis.org)

Evotis Volume 3 - Spillover (www.evotis.org)

The UC Davis One Health Institute team just released the new Evotis, a quarterly publication. 

"Volume 3 of Evotis explores diseases of pandemic potential, and how they are passed between humans and wildlife. It’s easy to “focus on all of the doomsday scenarios,” Dr. Jonna Mazet writes in this volume, but it’s also a time of great progress and opportunity. "

The work in this volume is part of USAID's PREDICT Project, and there is some great content from articles to video on PREDICT from sample collection to viral detection.

HALI's Director Jonna Mazet wrote the feature article Halting pandemics before they start, and David Wolking provides a snap shot of life with the HALI and PREDICT Tanzania team and collaborative engagement in When spillover is a good thing.

Finally, our favorite lab manager and molecular biologist Brett Smith narrates a really great video on what viral detection actually is, as we follow a sample through processing to viral testing in the UC Davis One Health Institute lab.

Check it out at www.evotis.org.

New HALI Publication: Bridging Local and Global Needs for Conservation and Development

Different stakeholders in the Ruaha Landscape have different needs and ideas for conservation and livelihood improvement.  Getting all stakeholders together to build collaborative regional development plans, though a challenge, may be the best bet in realizing conservation and development goals.  Photo by Micol Farina via Mongobay.

Different stakeholders in the Ruaha Landscape have different needs and ideas for conservation and livelihood improvement.  Getting all stakeholders together to build collaborative regional development plans, though a challenge, may be the best bet in realizing conservation and development goals.  Photo by Micol Farina via Mongobay.

- David Wolking

In December 2013, the HALI team released a new publication on a study investigating the challenges associated with the sustainable management of landscapes like the Ruaha Ecosystem in Tanzania, where diverse stakeholders rely on natural resources for livelihoods.  Authored by Dr. Michel Masozera, who completed his PhD with HALI's partner the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, the study used conjoint analysis to assess the preferences of different stakeholders like local communities, government officials and non-governmental  organizations towards conservation and development goals.  Conjoint analysis is a technique used to establish the importance of different factors in service provision, typically used in marketing research for the identification of factors influencing demand of a product or commodity.  

In the study, Michel and team conducted focus groups at the village and district levels to identify critical problems facing local communities. They then formulated attributes or management alternatives based on the focus group discussions taking into account management concerns, public issues, resource use and development opportunities in the Ruaha Landscape, and bundled these attributes into a series of hypothetical management strategies. After recruiting representatives from each of the stakeholder communities for a workshop, they conducted an interactive conjoint survey where participants ranked the management alternatives to determine the relative importance of each attribute to overall preference.  Finally, using probit models and other statistical techniques, they assessed and compared the ranked preferences and acceptable tradeoffs to identify potential management strategies that would best serve Ruaha's diverse stakeholder community.

Findings show that there is little agreement among these different stakeholders about the best development strategies and investment opportunities in the Ruaha area, a major concern for developing sustainable management policies perceived as beneficial to community and district level needs.  At the local level, participants ranked investments in farmer's cooperatives, loans and capacity building as paramount, while NGOs and district government officials placed greater emphasis on investments in health and education infrastructure.  Developing sustainable and acceptable management policies for the Ruaha Landscape to promote conservation while also improving livelihoods will need to reconcile these diverse needs, facing tough tradeoffs between short-term gains and long-term impact.

Perhaps most critical though, is improving communication and information sharing among all stakeholders in the area and building foundations for trust across groups.  Masozera's study produced a spark for improving inter-group communication in Ruaha, and the conjoint analysis workshop provided an ideal platform to bring these groups together and highlight the diversity of voices and needs.  The next steps are to build on this foundation by drawing on the insight provided by the workshop and working collaboratively towards the formulation of regional development plans.

 You can find a link to the full article at Environmental Management here.  

PREDICT's Pretty Face...

- David Wolking

The PREDICT team has been working with partner HealthMap for several years to develop a public platform for the release of our wildlife surveillance and viral testing results.  One of the challenges in rolling out a public platform featuring information on wildlife species, their locations at the time of sampling, and any findings from our diagnostic tests looking at RNA viruses is government approval. PREDICT is a big project, active in 20 countries worldwide (give or take depending on permit status), and establishing data sharing and release policies with government ministries is no easy task.  Developing a platform for the display of PREDICT data after securing government approval, a platform that meets the needs of all partners is also a challenge.  

PREDICT's new public face on HealthMap.  Here you can see the overview of surveillance progress in Tanzania as of early December 2013.  Our HALI team has been busy sampling wildlife throughout the country at areas we have identified as high-risk for human-animal contact and potential disease transmission.

PREDICT's new public face on HealthMap.  Here you can see the overview of surveillance progress in Tanzania as of early December 2013.  Our HALI team has been busy sampling wildlife throughout the country at areas we have identified as high-risk for human-animal contact and potential disease transmission.

So this month when HealthMap went live with a soft release of our PREDICT site featuring surveillance locations and info we were very excited.  

Check out PREDICT's pretty public face on HealthMap at healthmap.org/predict

For the first time our PREDICT teams could share the fruits of 4+ years of labor sampling bushmeat and capturing bats, rodents, and non-human primates with our partners and the global public.  Even better, we could finally demonstrate how our diagnostic findings would be publicly displayed to government partners and ministries, making discussions on data approval for public release more straightforward.

So how does it work?

Let's check out the functionality of the new PREDICT HealthMap site using Tanzania as an example...

As implementing partner for PREDICT in Tanzania, our HALI team led by Drs. Zikankuba Sijali and Liz Vanwormer has been very proactive.  In just 3 years they identified multiple locations as high-risk for human-wildlife contact, mapped them according to priority for wildlife disease transmission and emergence, and hit the road.  This surveillance road trip is nicely captured by PREDICT's HealthMap site, where surveillance activities are clustered by geographic location.  You can click around on the country map using basic Google Maps zoom functions, zero in on the "bubbles" highlighting surveillance activity, and explore the different species our team has sampled based on location.  Eventually as we clear our diagnostic results with the government of Tanzania, you will be able to view the RNA viruses we detected in animals at these sites, along with helpful links to what our findings mean for wildlife and public health.

An example of PREDICT surveillance progress on our HealthMap site from Tanga.  The HALI team identified Tanga as an area of surveillance priority due to the presence of large bat caves (Amboni Caves) where ecotourists frequently encounter bats and other roosting sites for fruit bats near the Indian Ocean coastline.

An example of PREDICT surveillance progress on our HealthMap site from Tanga.  The HALI team identified Tanga as an area of surveillance priority due to the presence of large bat caves (Amboni Caves) where ecotourists frequently encounter bats and other roosting sites for fruit bats near the Indian Ocean coastline.

Ruaha Roundtable Meeting

HALI is gearing up for the bi-annual Ruaha Roundtable Meeting next week on the 23rd of  November at Neema Crafts in Iringa, Tanzania.  November's meeting, organized by Strengthening the Protected Area Network in Southern Tanzania (SPANEST) is designed to help facilitate and strengthen constructive dialogue and collaboration among non-governmental conservation, ecology and environmental education stakeholders working in the Ruaha landscape.  

Ruaha Carnivore Project is helping pastoralists build improved bomas to prevent livestock predation.

Ruaha Carnivore Project is helping pastoralists build improved bomas to prevent livestock predation.

We look forward to these meetings to learn about other projects and activities in the area, like the Ruaha Carnivore Project, working to help pastoralists improve their bomas (livestock enclosures) to prevent predation from wildlife like lions and hyenas.  HALI coordinator Dr. Goodluck Paul will be presenting for us this time, though I'm sure several of our team members will be at Neema Crafts to learn about other projects and eat some delicious baked goods.  

Neema Crafts, the host of the November Ruaha Roundtable Meeting, provides handicrafts training and employment for deaf and physically disabled people in Iringa, Tanzania.