Leah Streb - Global Underserved Communities Fellowship & Rx One Health Tanzania
Before I started veterinary school at UC Davis, I wanted to take part in the Rx One Health course in Tanzania and learn more about the PREDICT Project. I am passionate about zoonotic disease, ecology, and wildlife which led me to pursue a summer opportunity working with these entities. Thanks to the Global Underserved Communities Fellowship through the Office of Global Programs and Dr. Jonna Mazet, I was able to conduct zoonotic disease research internationally with the PREDICT Project and participate in the course, which gave me incomparable insight into the One Health interface.
I spent my first five weeks in Tanzania at the Sokoine University of Agriculture working on a research project. My project involved assessing seroprevalence of Rift Valley Fever Virus in the Lake Zone of Tanzania and looking at behavioral, demographic, and environmental risk factors for the disease. Rift Valley Fever Virus is a zoonotic disease that is spread by mosquitos, as well as from ungulate livestock to humans. We were able to assess historic exposure to this virus using competitive ELISA testing. I learned how to perform these tests on over 520 human serum samples. Data analysis for this project is still ongoing, so I am excited to continue learning more about statistical analysis and the use of GIS in One Health research. This experience working with the PREDICT project was a dream come true, and I gained several hands-on laboratory skills while also having the opportunity to experience another country and culture.
During the research phase of my project, I was also able to travel on my free time to experience the splendors of Tanzania. My UC Davis classmates and I were able to visit four amazing national parks. We hiked to waterfalls at Udzungwa, watched the sun set over Mikumi, gazed at the vast crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and observed lions mating in the Serengeti, which was truly a once (or 3 times) in a lifetime experience.
Once our projects were finished, my classmates and I headed back to Dar es Salaam to join the Rx One Health course. I didn’t recognize it at first, but this course was about to be one of the greatest learning opportunities of my life. It was exactly what I had been missing previously in my training. We were able to collaborate with other students and professionals from all over the world and learn about different cultures and teach each other through our different experiences. This course provided an excellent balance of in-lecture learning with field application. Some of my favorite occasions of field learning practices include giraffe skin disease surveillance, elephant bee hive fences, Maasai tribe interviews, livestock sampling, primate sampling, bat sampling, and vector ecology. But perhaps the most important thing I learned on this course, is how to look at an issue people are facing, figure out how to address it using a practical One Health approach, and then presenting the solution to stake holders.
I never could have imagined the experience I would gain from my work this summer. I am so grateful for this opportunity and for all of the mentors I have gotten the chance to work with, both at UC Davis and in Tanzania. I have grown so much both personally and professionally. This trip was also the first time I had ever been to Africa and now I can’t wait to go back!