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#DispatchesDNLee #TZ2018

April 27 2018

Evaluating pouched rat natural history ecology and behavior in Morogoro, Tanzania and beyond.

April 27 2018


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Mission Underway

In Morogoro and getting started

Updates have been challenging because getting sustained internet has been hard. I have to pay for devices and my Ki-Swahili is too weak to navigate alone.

But I am in Morogoro - my expedition home base and I have gotten settled personally.

Accomodations. check Hair braided. check Connected with friends and Tanzanian family. check Connected with Tanzanian colleagues and outlined next steps of research. check.

In fact I'll be going out later today to investigate potentional nest sites of panyabukuu (giant pouched rats).

It's coming along well.

Arrival - Ninafika Tanzania

I am back. After nearly 24 hours in transit, I have safely arrived to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania (Julius Nyerere International Airport, airport code DAR). Nina furahi sana karundi.

After completing

  • Immigration forms

  • Applying for and paying for Visa - $100 USD (They take credit/debit card payments now, wow!)

  • Going through Customs (your bags get scanned and inspected again; and my research trunks required closer inspection and inquiry), I finally made it outside. That took about an hour.

    ... I am here.

The driver was waiting a while for me since my arrival, but everything was fine. This is my 4th arrival to DAR. And my word of advice for anyone traveling from outside of East Africa to Tanzania (via DAR specifically) is to add about 30 min - 1 hr of processing time once you land. First, there are a lot of people getting off of the plane going through the same process. There are staffers there to point you in the right direction. Yes, they speak English. Second, don't rush yourself or others. Be patient through this process - both with yourself (& others). You're navigating many things at once - the sudden smack of hot humid air in your face, throngs of people, and airport security. And you're likely very tired from traveling so far and so long. Third and most importantly, be polite. Tanzania is notoriously welcoming and friendly. Personally, rude behavior and bad manners are a turn off. Despite being tired, cranky, etc, remember that folks are there to help you. If you get confused or turned around or delayed, then don't beat yourself up and no one else. This goes double for those traveling in big groups and/or bringing extra bags of equipment. (I'm the latter). It's a process. Show your paperwork and answer the questions - and have your local contact info at hand.

So, after about an hour, I was connected with my driver and he took me to the hotel to rest for the night. My host colleagues are arriving later this evening at DAR and I will meet with them later after resting and eating.

Arrived in Dar Es Salaam. Checked into my hotel. #DispatchesDNLee #TZ2018

Posted by Danielle N. Lee on Friday, May 11, 2018

Excellent! I was meaning to tell you that you could embed Facebook live videos on OE. I'm glad you figured that out, because your FB Live videos are packed with insight and deserve to be archived. Loving these.

Preparation Stage


I’m at the airport, ready to take off. I arrived extra early and was the first at the counter to check in my trunks and bags. The total flight time is about 24hrs which includes 2 layovers. I arrive in Dar Es Salaam mid day on May 11th.

I won’t have cell phone service when I first arrive and I’ll need to get phone and internet as soon as I get settled into Morogoro, Tanzania. When I get access to free WiFi I can drop some updates on social media/ and send emails to let my family, friends, & colleagues know I arrived safely.

Tanzania is GMT+3, which is 8 hrs ahead of my home time zone in the States. This means my Instagram/Twitter updates will be coming in the middle of the evening and morning for my friends and family back home.

But stay tuned and follow me on Twitter and Instagram: @DNLee5 on both platforms.

Posted by Danielle N. Lee on Thursday, May 10, 2018

Want a postcard from Tanzania?

I'm sending official greetings from the #TZ2018 #DispatchesDNLee Expedition to anyone from anywhere.

Why? Because I like postcards. I think there are the perfect souvenir. You get a picture on one side and the other side you can provide context. It's a perfect way to capture a memory for yourself OR demonstrate thoughtfulness of others.

Plus, it's how I do outreach and share science and my adventures with youth and families around the world. So if you want a postcard - for yourself, or for someone you know, then please fill out the Google Form linked below. Teachers and youth leaders often have me send a postcard to their classroom and a postcard is a special way to share a smile with someone who may be home-bound, sick-and-shut-in, away at school/camp, incarcerated or doing military service abroad.

Google form for Postcard from Tanzania


T minus 7 days

One week from today I'll be back in Tanzania. That means I need to take my malarial prophylaxis.

There are some options for prophylaxis, but despite side-effects, I continue to take Larium or Mefloquine. And here is why.

  • A) I can’t afford to get sick. I’m only in Tanzania for a a certain period of and have a lot to do. Getting sick wastes my time.
  • B) Prevention is better than treatment. Although Mefloquine can be used to treat malaria, it is not recommended to treat malaria after you get sick.
  • C) Mosquitos love me. The last thing I need are these little vectors giving me a gift of malaria. And we are talking Malaria, folks...Malaria. Like natural selection’s evolutionary response to malaria was sickle cell — and I don’t have the trait.
  • D) Malarone is an alternative that is just as effective as Mefloquine and is reported to have fewer side effects. However, I'm not great at taking daily pills. There's a risk I'll forget to take them.
  • E) Cost. Mefloquine is a once a week pill. It's not cheap and I have to take it 2 weeks before I depart, every week while I am there and for 4 weeks, after I return, it's a more affordable option. But it’s more affordable option than Malarone that you have to take daily 2 weeks before, every day while abroad and for 4 weeks upon return.

And so far so good, I haven't gotten sick from my previous visits to Tanzania or other parts of the world where Malaria is prevalent.

Here I am taking my dose of medicine


Making lists and shopping

Have you ever noticed how travel plans require a lot of shopping? I'm visiting the store nearly everyday now, purchasing sundry supplies - for field research and temporary settling. I stay in a rest house for extended stays and I need to get comfortable as soon as possible so that I can get started on work.

My lists includes Personal items and Research items.

I'm just trying to get it all done AND close my semester down and maintain some sanity.


Packing and preparing

My days have been filled with packing for the trip. Packing my toiletries, medicines and personal care items - enough for the 2 month visit. I prefer to have my necessities on hand. Searching for items to purchase can take time away from your expedition. Plus, if you have special items for care, it's best to bring them with you. You can't risk not being able to find what you need - due to lack of availability or more likely, inability to translate - when you need it. Bring it with you.


Personal care

  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Facial cleanser
  • Hair products
  • Deodorant - this one I'm picky about because I like dry solids. During my first visit I ran out and I could not find any at all. I was a stinky billy goat my last few days. LOL
  • Feminine products - tampons can be hard to come by in some developing nations
  • Prescription medicines - including anti-malarial pills & CIPRO, just in case

Research related

  • Research electronics: cameras, laptop computer, Boroscope
  • Clamp lights and light bulbs
  • Walkie-talkies
  • Flags and flagging tape
  • Permethrin-treated Field clothes, boots, & gear


  • Scrubs - I wear scrubs as field clothes
  • Shoes - daily shoes, water-ready, sandals (as dress shoes), flip-flops (shower), sneakers
  • Skirts, simple dresses, linen pants - serves as dress clothes for meetings or travel to city or holiday
  • T-shirts, long shorts, cargo capris - day to day clothes


Leading up to these last days, I make sure that I have everything together

  • Visit the health clinic and make sure my boosters are current
  • Getting an Rx and beginning my anti-malarial prophylaxis in time. (You have to begin taking anti-malarial pills up to 2 weeks before departure).
  • Completing all paperwork with my university
  • Getting cash to pay for services while in transit and for Visa upon arrival. There's no ATM machine at Customs at the Dar Es Salaam airport.
  • Arranging for transport to the the airport - departure from US
  • Arranging for transport from the airport - arrival to TZ
  • Arranging for accommodations in TZ
  • Making sure I have all research and personal items needed for the trip.

Research Mission for #TZ2018

This will be my 4th trip to Tanzania, East Africa.

Building off of my previous expeditions to Tanzania, I will continue exploring the natural history, ecology and behavior of Southern giant pouched rats, Cricetomys ansorgei, that live in Morogoro - my Expedition home base.

What's different this time? I have a different role. I am a PI, which means Principal Investigator. I have a new title -- Assistant Professor of Biology; and I have a new professional affiliation - Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

This trip is as much about rekindling connections with Tanzanian colleagues and friends, as well it is examining pouched rat behavior. As a new PI, I need to (re)establish my professional footprint in Tanzania and I want to distinguish my newwork - beginning this year - from the previous work I did when I was a post-doctoral researcher with a different institution.

As a PI, I direct my own research program. And I'd like the pouched rat research to be in line with the research I do domestically - examining the ecology and behavior of rodents across urban gradients. My last visit (2015) I was itching to explore several routes of inquiry, but I didn't have the time to pilot those ideas. Thanks to funding I received as a 2017 National Geographic Emerging Explorer I am able to revisit Tanzania and kick start my research.

Plus, I want to research options for bringing students from my institution, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to my host institution Sokoine University of Agriculture for study abroad and field research opportunities. I am excited (and thankful for the funds) to make this exploratory trip to set many plans - research, teaching, and collaboration in motion.

Expedition Background

Returning to Tanzania

It's been a long time, but Dispatches of DNLee is back.

I am returning to Morogoro,Tanzania - East Africa, to continue studying the natural history, ecology, and behavior of Southern giant pouched rats, Cricetomys ansorgei.

Expedition dates: Departure: May 10, 2018 Return: July 10, 2018


  • Re-connect with colleagues and friends
  • Revisit field research sites and locate new trapping locations
  • Research facilities options for future visits with undergraduate students from the States.
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Yes! So excited to follow along!