Mission Creek Checkerspot Spotlight

One of Mission Creek's captively bred Taylor's checkerspot butterflies basking shortly after released on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

One of Mission Creek’s captively bred Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies basking shortly after release on Joint Base Lewis-McChord prairie. Photo by Seth Dorman.

Another wonderful rearing season is coming to a close at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women. This year butterfly technicians and staff woke up sleeping caterpillars or larvae in early February. The “sleep” phase of the butterfly’s life cycle is called diapause. Since wake-up, the capable butterfly technicians at Mission Creek have been working hard to provide excellent care at each life stage (i.e., larvae, pupae, adults, eggs), while also collecting extensive environmental and life stage summary data.

Butterfly technicians feed post-diapause larvae for the first time after “wake-up.”

Butterfly technicians feed post-diapause larvae for the first time after “wake-up.” Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

A post-diapause larva feeding captured by the butterfly technicians with a digital microscope, a recent addition to the butterfly greenhouse this season.

A post-diapause larva feeding captured by the butterfly technicians with a digital microscope, a recent addition to the butterfly greenhouse this season.

Once our 2,800 plus larvae woke from their winter slumber it was off to the races and it was a challenge to make sure all of the growing animals were well fed. After sleeping through the fall and winter, these post-diapause or 5th instar larvae were hungry and eager to store up enough energy to molt one final time before entering their pupal life stage. The larvae are kept in deli containers with 15 per cup and each cup can eat two or three plantain leaves a day! That means a lot of plantain leaves need to be gathered and washed every morning to keep all of our hungry larvae satisfied. This year, pesky deer began grazing on our plantain plants beds during the night, so the butterfly technicians designed a cover made out of bird netting to ward them off.

Butterfly technicians, Michelle Dittamore and Eva Ortiz, release post diapause larvae in Mima Mound prairies while PBS captures the moment on film.

Butterfly technicians, Michelle Dittamore and Eva Ortiz, release post-diapause larvae in Mima Mound prairies while PBS captures every step on film. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

In late February, just over 2,500 of our post-diapause larvae were released into the wild at two reintroduction sites located on South Sound prairies.  This year, two of the butterfly technicians were able to travel from the prison to the field to help with the release for the first time in the butterfly program’s history! Also participating in the release was Carolina Landa, a former butterfly technician and current SPP Advisor and student at The Evergreen State College. A reporter and camera person from the PBS NewsHour and several other media representatives filmed the release.

 

 

Previous butterfly technician, Carolina Landa, releases pre diapause larvae into the wild for the first time.

Previous butterfly technician, Carolina Landa, releases pre-diapause larvae into the wild. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Mission Creek retained 350 larvae for breeding. We welcomed our pupa on March 12th and first adult butterfly on April 15th. Once the first few lineages of adults emerged from their chrysalis or pupal stage, the butterfly technicians began pairing lineages and placing them in breeding tents. Since the adult butterflies are finicky about where they like to breed, technicians typically move them around the greenhouse until the butterflies seem satisfied by sunlight and temperature conditions.

During the height of the breeding season, the Oregon Zoo’s Head Butterfly Keeper, Julia Low made a visit to Mission Creek to offer suggestions to the butterfly technicians on maximizing breeding. She admitted to taking a few notes of her own, learning from the technicians at Mission Creek. After a pair of butterflies has bred or copulated, they are placed in a deli container until the female is ready to be placed into an oviposition or egg-laying chamber. The chamber is filled with host plants for the female to lay her eggs on and prairie nectaring flowers to help stimulate egg laying.

Eva Ortiz juggles multiple breeding tents while trying to find optimal breeding conditions.

Eva Ortiz juggles multiple breeding tents while trying to find optimal breeding conditions. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

Butterfly copulation or breeding event.

Butterfly copulation or breeding event. Photo by Seth Dorman.

Gravid adult female placed in oviposition chamber for egg laying.

Gravid adult female placed in oviposition chamber for egg laying. Photo by Kelli Bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly technicians Cynthia Fetterly and Jessica Stevens discuss egg collection strategies.

Butterfly technicians Cynthia Fetterly and Jessica Stevens discuss egg collection strategies. Photo by Kelli Bush.

 

This season two new butterfly technicians, Cynthia Fetterly and Jessica Stevens, joined the rearing team and proved to be invaluable throughout the season. In addition to learning all of our husbandry protocols outlined by the Oregon Zoo and getting experience with all of the butterfly’s life stages throughout the season, they also took upon themselves to work extensively with monitoring the egg-laying females and caring for each of the egg clusters laid by our captive and wild females. Although we came just short of our egg targets this year, we were able to meet our target with some help from the Oregon Zoo and are projected to have just over 3,000 larvae for release and breeding next season.

Julia Low with the Oregon Zoo chatting butterfly husbandry with the technicians at Mission Creek.

Julia Low with the Oregon Zoo chatting butterfly husbandry with the technicians at Mission Creek. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

Mission Creek butterflies being released by Mary Linders.

Mission Creek butterflies being released by Mary Linders. Photo by Seth Dorman.

After breeding concluded, 125 of our captive adults were released on one of our reintroduction sites on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The adults were released by Biologist Mary Linders of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and SPP Program Coordinator Seth Dorman.

The butterfly technicians are currently occupying our 3,000 larvae that have hatched successfully and will continue feeding until they have molted five times and return to diapause through the fall and winter.

Butterfly technicians pose in front of educational poster set up for visiting Girl Scouts Behind Bars.

Butterfly technicians pose in front of educational poster set up for Girl Scouts Behind Bars visiting the butterfly greenhouse. Photo by Seth Dorman.

 

 

SPP Internship on Reentry

by Carolina Landa

June 6, 2016

This semester has been very amazing for me working with SPP, an organization that I respect and owe a lot to. One of the most self-inspiring moments was going back into a prison after almost two years of being released. I was able to go with Marcenia Milligan and Misty Liles who are working on a DOC pilot program for reentry. The work they are doing is amazing, first off. They are really dedicated at helping incarcerated people succeed on their reentry back into the community. The 1.5 million grant is only being used for incarcerated people and the reentry services offered to them—none is going to DOC staff salaries. The reentry team made this decision at the beginning, which is humbling to think of and shows heart in the work they are doing.

As I entered Monroe Correctional Complex I became overwhelmed with emotion and started to cry—there was no way around this and I anticipated it would happen. There was just something about hearing those doors and gates lock that immediately took me back to 5 years ago when I first became incarcerated. I don’t think that will ever go away. But the feeling I was able to feel while I was able to interact with the men was priceless, and it affirmed very much for me that I was and am following exactly what I am supposed to be doing with my life.

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A slide from the reentry presentation Carolina created as an SPP intern. Photo in top left is by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

People incarcerated are truly some of the most amazing people I have met. Society might not view it that way but I do. There is a bond with them that I immediately have because I know the struggle and I understand their story.

I decided to focus my time around reentry because I feel it is something where SPP could help a lot of the people in the programs in the prisons and after release, as they have helped me.  What I ended up learning about reentry is that it is very complex. Being able to come up with, let’s say, a list of resources is complex because that list is always changing.  I also realized that a semester is not enough time to dedicate to reentry, especially for SPP, as this is all new to them.  The only story, advice and resources I can give are what I have used myself in reentry.  I agree that there are some good organizations out there, but what happens is that a lot of the time the funding is only available for maybe a year, and then is gone.

Successful reentry has to be all focused around networking: I really believe that is what reentry means. Who you know is an important factor and also using what others have used before you.  I will continue to dedicate my time to reentry with SPP as I feel very passionate about helping others who have been where I once was. This list of resources will take a while to conduct and in the end it will most likely be some organizations, but I believe most will be names of persons that I will pick up along the way.

I very much am grateful for this opportunity to work with SPP. Thank you; it has helped me be the person I am today, by continuously believing and encouraging me. I only want to help others succeed as well.  We are well on our way to making reentry focus a bit more stronger for SPP.

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Larch’s First Turtle Release: A Technician’s Response

by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator, and Mr. Goff, SPP Turtle Technician
Photos by Sadie Gilliom, except where noted

On May 18th, 2016, Larch Corrections Center released its first nine turtles into a pond in Klickitat County. These were state-listed endangered western pond turtles that received care at Larch. The turtles had been removed form the wild by biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife because they were suffering from a shell disease. They received acute treatment by the veterinarian at the Oregon Zoo and then transferred to Larch Corrections Center where two trained technicians cared for the turtles until they were ready to be released back into the wild.

Larch Turtle Ready for Release

A Larch turtle is ready for release.

Release Site

The release site was a lovely pond in Klickitat County.

The team—myself, Larch’s SPP Liaison Mr. Piliponis, Superintendent Oliver-Estes, the two technicians, Sergeant, and Mark Francis—drove 3 hours to a beautiful wetland. It was a sunny day with a clear view of Mt. Hood. We were greeted by WDFW biologist Stefanie Bergh, the founder of the Western Pond Turtle breeding program, Frank Slavins, and Oregon Zoo volunteers and staff. The Oregon Zoo was releasing the turtle hatchlings from their head start program on the same day.

Sgt. Mark Franklin Guarding the Turtles

Sgt. Mark Franklin guards the turtles.

Supt. Oliver-Estes Saying Farewell to a Turtle

Larch Superintendent Oliver-Estes says farewell to a turtle.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Learning About Turtle Anatomy

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill examined empty shells to learn more about turtle anatomy.

After meeting everyone, learning about the different tools the biologists use to study the turtles, and the technicians answering lots of questions about the Larch turtles from curious volunteers, we made our way down to the water’s edge. One by one all of the turtles were gently placed near the water. Then they trudged their way into the pond to swim off and join the others. This march to freedom was a moment to remember for all of the many players in the army to save the western pond turtle, but perhaps most memorable for the turtle technicians who are prepping for release themselves.

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill Teaching Zoo Volunteers About Westen Pond Turtles

Turtle Technician Mr. Hill taught young zoo volunteers about western pond turtles.

After the turtle release, Turtle Technician Mr. Joseph Goff shared his response to the experience:

“On Dec 19 2015 I became a caretaker. It was probably the last thing I thought I would be doing in my current situation. Caretaking is a humbling experience. It gives you a perspective on yourself, but also makes you focus on something or someone else. To be one of the reasons that these turtles survive is amazing. Also to see all the other people that have a part as well or are even just interested in knowing what they could do to to help. In so many ways this in something pure. To have so many people come together on one common ground doing what they can to help a turtle that has no means to help himself.

This program has opened my eyes—first to my future. I always have loved anything to do with nature or animals. I want to go back to school for it now. I want to volunteer and do it for a living. This program has also changed my perspective on people. Outside of family I guess I’ve lost my ability to put trust in or listen to others. Surrounding myself with people who always had ulterior motives or just take and pretend to care. It made me close-minded and hardened. In fact, a lot of people probably might have said I was one of those people that had ulterior motives that pretended to care.

Now I’m caring for these turtles who ironically are sick just like I was. They are enclosed and cared for. When their time is up and they are well they get to leave; if they get sick again they come back. I’m also involved with other caregivers that have helped me find a part of myself I had lost along the way. I believe this program has greatly changed my current life and if I continue with this same line of work or similar, I will be forever changed.”

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle

Turtle Technician Mr. Goff Releasing a Turtle.

Watching the Turtles Swim Away

The technicians watched the turtles swim away.

All the Collaborators for the Turtle Program

Here is the Larch’s Turtle Program team. Photo by Zoo Volunteer.

All snaps! Airway Heights amazing firewood program

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

I have known about Airway Heights Corrections Center (AHCC)’s firewood program for years, but had no idea of the scale. I have never seen so much firewood.

On public lands such as parks and state forests, AHCC’s community crews remove trees which fell during storms, and cut trees which are crowding others or posing a hazard. Logs come back to the minimum security yard for splitting, stacking and curing. The prison partners with SNAP (Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners) to provide people of low income with no-cost firewood, to heat their homes. The winter of 2015-16, AHCC’s firewood program donated more than 660 cords of wood to Spokane County residents! 

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This photo shows about *half* the firewood currently stacked at the Corrections Center.

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A spontaneous meeting forms around the chipper: DOC staff, visiting compost experts, and a technician discuss the finer points of chipping waste wood. (The chips get turned into compost for the gardens, of course.)

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Dang, those are good looking stacks!

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A technician paused in his work with the splitter so I could take his photograph.

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The crew manually splits and stacks firewood, building their communities’ resources.

 

Prairie seeds close up

Photos by Jim Miles, Prairie Conservation Technician at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC)
Text by Ricky Johnson, Prairie Conservation Technician Program Coordinator

Jim Miles is a conservation nursery technician at SCCC. We bought a new picture microscope for the program, and gave Jim the task of documenting more than 40 different species of prairie plant seeds. Miles had shown an interest in earlier detail-oriented tasks such as data collection and plant tracking. His ability to efficiently and systematically organize, document, and store critical data and information sold me that he was the right person for this particular task.

I delivered the seeds to Miles in a small box full of little manila folders. Being the meticulous worker he is, he immediately began to alphabetized the folders and outline a documentation sheet to correspond with the photos which were saved on an SD card. Tediously, he aligned each seed on a ruler to measure its length and width. Some species, like Micranthes integrifolia, are smaller than cracked pepper, so it takes patience to place them where you want them. Miles took the initiative to photograph seeds with various backgrounds—this proved useful for identifying characteristics of each seed, providing differing levels of contrast and illumination.  The effects were impressive and looked like they belonged in an art gallery.

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Gaillardia aristata, blanketflower, is a colorful daisy-like flower of the prairie, but the seeds look like wolf heads.

Erigeron-speciosus-(2)

Erigeron speciosus also has a daisy-like flower…

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…and here it is blooming on the prairie! Photo by Benj Drummond.

Microseris-laciniata-(3)

Microseris laciniata is a dandelion look-alike which is native to south Sound prairies.

Lomatium-utriculatum-(3)

Lomatium seeds are beautiful! They look a bit like dill seeds, because they are in the same family. This one is Lomatium utriculatum.

Lomatium-nudicaule-(3)

This one is Lomatium-nudicaule. Lomatium flowers are a powerful source of nectar for prairie butterflies.

Lomatium-triternatum-(3)

This one is Lomatium triternatum, also known as nine-leaf biscuitroot. (Such a great name!)

Festuca-romerii-(2)

Festuca romerii is one of only a couple grasses we grow in SPP’s prairie conservation nurseries—south Sound prairies are dominated by flowering plants.

Ranunculus-occidentalis

Under the microscope, western buttercup, or Ranunculus-occidentalis, looks like fat little birds without legs.

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Jim Miles spelled his name in Solidago simplex, also known as goldenrod.

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Here is Technician Miles working with the picture microscope.

 

A Successful Turtle Release

by Sadie Gilliom, Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator

Steve holds a western pond turtle just before releasing it in a Pierce County wetland. The endangered species received care from conservation technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Kelli Bush.

SPP’s Director for Washington Corrections, Steve Sinclair, holds a western pond turtle just before releasing it in a Pierce County wetland. The endangered species received care from conservation technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Kelli Bush.

On April 14th, four western pond turtles were released back into the wild in a wetland in Pierce County. These turtles had come into the care of the western pond turtle inmate technicians at Cedar Creek Corrections Center due to shell disease. After being taken in by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and receiving acute veterinary care at PAWs wildlife rehabilitation center, the turtles were transported to the technicians. The technicians provided expert care for the turtles and their wounds until they were healed enough to be released back into their natural habitat. Please enjoy the following pictures of this fantastic event!

Turtle Technician Anglemyer and SPP Turtle Coordinator Sadie Gilliom discuss preparation for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle, Photographer for The Evergreen State College

Turtle Technician Anglemyer and SPP Turtle Coordinator Sadie Gilliom discuss preparation for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Technician Hufferd-Oulette, SPP Coordinator Sadie Gilliom and Technician Anglemyer pose with turtles getting ready for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle, Photographer for The Evergreen State College

Technician Hufferd-Oulette, SPP Coordinator Sadie Gilliom and Technician Anglemyer pose with turtles getting ready for release. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Saying goodbye and good luck to a turtle. Photo by Shauna Bittle, Photographer of The Evergreen State College

Saying goodbye and good luck to a turtle. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

SPP Liaison and Classicifcation Counselor, Gina Sibley, helping the technicians load the turtles in the van. Photo by Evergreen photographer Shauna Bittle

SPP Liaison and Classifications Counselor, Gina Sibley, helping the technicians load the turtles in the van. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Dr. Bethany examines turtle prior to release. Photo by SPP Manager Kelli Bush

Dr. Bethany examines turtle prior to release. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Sadie helping to attach the radio trackers on the turtles. Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Sadie helping to attach the radio trackers on the turtles. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Turtle ready for release! Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Turtle ready for release! Photo by Kelli Bush.

Deputy Secretary, Jodi Becker-Green releasing her turtle. Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Deputy Secretary Jody Becker-Green releasing her turtle. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Sadie and Kelli co-releasing the last turtle. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

Sadie and Kelli co-releasing the last turtle. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

Photos from WCCW Work party

Text and photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In late March, the prairie conservation nursery at Washington Corrections Center for women held a work party. Three SPP staff who had never before worked in an SPP nursery got to join the crew for a day: Sadie Gilliom, SPP turtle program coordinator, Liliana Caughman, lecture series coordinator, and me. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day—hot, even, under the hoop house plastic.

Our gracious hosts were conservation nursery technicians Stephanie Boyle and Lerissa Iata, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott, and DOC’s Scott Skaggs. It was such fun to join their work, and help them catch up with the needs of sprouting seeds.

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SPP’s Liliana Caughman fills her seeding tray with Lomatium seeds while Sadie Gilliom and Carl Elliott fill racks with soil.

 

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The Lomatium helped inspire the work party—it started sprouting in the fridge earlier than normal.

 

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label seed lots sown.

Conservation technicians Stephanie Boyle makes tags to label the seed lots sown.

 

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks on prairie species growing in the hoop house at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

Conservation technician Lerissa Iata checks for weeds growing among prairie species.

 

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Since the violet beds were built, a pair of killdeer has used them as a nesting site, and the birds are adored by many at the prison. As is typical for killdeer, they laid their eggs out in the open, and anytime a visitor comes near they put on a loud and vigorous display.

 

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Beyond the killdeer eggs, on the first truly warm day of spring, you can see many sun lovers out in the yard.

 

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I asked the work party to pose for a group photo, and they were such cool subjects that we all cracked up.

 

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I admire the balsamroot seedlings in the nurery. I love plants! Photo by Liliana Caughman.

 

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Anywhere and everywhere we can, we bring nature inside prisons.

Principle & Practice: Learning and doing science at Shotwell’s

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

In February, I visited Shotwell’s Landing and got to see the prairie restoration crew in action. The crew is contributing to program coordinator Conrad Ely‘s thesis research for the Master of Environmental Studies program. The research builds on the work of an earlier Master’s thesis investigating how treating seeds with plant-derived smoke water, which contains many of the same chemicals present in prairie fires, can affect their germination rates and vigor—many prairie species are very difficult to propagate, and they hope to trigger germination with treatments simulating prairie fire.

After the first nursery tasks of the day, program coordinator Conrad Ely shared a presentation on the scientific method. He tied principles of research design to their shared experiment, and then to Mima Mounds enigma. He used theories on the Mima Mounds’ formation to illustrate opportunities as well as limitations of the scientific process. From their experience with prairie restoration, the crew knows the Mounds well, and they jumped in with their own thoughts and theories.

My gratitude for everything the crew does for the region’s prairies. They are employed in prairie restoration full time, and their efforts and enthusiasm make a big difference for South Sound prairies, one of the most rare and threatened landscapes in the nation.

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Program coordinator Conrad Ely leads discussion of the scientific method.

 

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Benjamin Hall brought great questions and ideas to the discussion of the Mima Mounds mystery.

 

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Nursery technicians Robert Bowers (left) and Andrew McManus (right) track seed lots for stratification prior to spring sowing.

 

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Conrad discusses germination rates with technicians Bobby Un (left) and Benjamin Hall (right).

 

in-the-garden

The group visited the demonstration garden at the north end of Shotwell’s Landing, mostly dormant in the winter but still a pleasing site for contemplation.

 

A Technician’s Experience in a Room Full of Frog Scientists

Each year a group of amphibian experts meets to discuss status, research updates and action items for the recovery of the state endangered and federally threatened Oregon spotted frog (OSF).  This year, the two OSF technicians, who cared for and released 167 frogs in 2015, were able to attend this important meeting and share the critical role they have played in the OSF recovery effort.  The following blog is inmate science technician Mr. Boysen’s reaction to the meeting.  Thank you Mr. Boysen, for sharing your experience and for everything you have contributed to the program.-Sadie Gilliom-Sustainability in Prisons Project OSF and Western Pond Turtle Coordinator

Today my co-worker and I went to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.  We left Cedar Creek Corrections Center earlier than I expected and made it to the Refuge a little late.  We were greeted by our boss, Mrs. Gilliom and directed to our seats.  It was a pretty intimidating place at first glance.  There were lots of badges and logos on shirts and hats. I recognized most of them.  There was Northwest Trek, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, Woodland Park Zoo, Oregon Zoo and other people I have seen and given tours of the turtle program to at Cedar Creek.  Seeing familiar faces made it less intimidating.  Right out of the gate, Kelli Bush, the manager at the Sustainability in Prisons Project came up and thanked us for coming and I saw more and more people I’d seen before.

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Mr. Boysen giving a tour to zookeepers and veterinarian from Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

The presentations started and I was amazed at the large size of this group of really smart people- these people spend so much of their time and career on these frogs.  There are so many aspects of this project I didn’t really understand were going on behind the scenes.  It was interesting to hear from JBLM about how they haven’t found any egg masses or frogs at the release site.  It was nice to hear that they are finding Oregon spotted frogs in locations around the Black River area that are thriving.  I didn’t recognize how much work was done just to survey the swamps, marshes, and ditches where frogs might be hiding.  Getting to see the maps with the GPS lines that showed where people had actually slogged their way through mud and muck was pretty cool.

Another part of the presentation that I found to be really cool was the different types of work that is being done to restore habitat for the frogs.  The different ways that the reed canary grass is being removed/eradicated was very interesting.  The mats of native plants that were going into production at another prison sound like a good idea.  It was fascinating to see how much work was involved with the restoration of native plants.  They burn, move, weed wack, hand cut and till the soil to allow a more inhabitable place for the frogs to live.

You would never really think all of this was going on to save a frog from extinction. It kind of gives you hope when you really think about it.  If this many people can spend this much time and brainpower on one little frog and one state’s government can spend this much money to stop one species of frog from disappearing then maybe we haven’t become blind to what we have done to the world we live in.  Maybe we can fix the things we have messed up and the damage we have done to our world.

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen holding an OSF that was being raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

The most intimidating part of the trip was the presentation we gave.  Now, I’m not a shy person or timid in any way, but when I walked to the front of that room with Mrs. Gilliom and Bill, I was a little surprised with how big the room got.  Having that many intelligent people staring at you is intimidating.  It was trial by fire for Bill and me.  We told the group of leading experts in their field what we were getting from the program and why we wanted to be a part of it.  Neither of us babbled or passed out, so that was cool.  Then after we finished we actually got an applause.  We were there for hours and saw 10 people go up and talk to the group.  We were the only ones that got applause!

Then it was time for us to go, so we hopped into the transport van to go back to prison.  It was an eye opening experience for the both of us.

I’ve been in prison for over half a decade and for that four hours we were there, we were not inside a prison compound and were not surrounded by prisoners and razor wire.  I almost felt like I was a different version of myself, that I had not made the mistakes I made when I was young. It was nice to see that the work we do at Cedar Creek plays a pretty big role in trying to fix a problem we, as our own species, have caused in our environment and planet.

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

Mr. Boysen cleaning the OSF tank full of tadpoles at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

It was a Toad-ally Ribbiting Lecture with the Special Offenders Unit

Blog and photos by Liliana Caughman, SPP Lecture Series Program Coordinator

Last month the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series held its first ever lecture at the Special Offenders Unit (SOU) at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC).

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This lecture, led by our amazingly talented Frog and Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliom, proved to be one of the most interactive and fun lectures of all time.

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The audience was lively but respectful. They were eager to learn more and more about the “Amazing World of Amphibians”.

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At least one of the students who attended the lecture is hearing impaired, so we had the added pleasure of seeing the lecture interpreted through sign language.

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Watching the stories about amphibians come to life through movement made the presentation even more captivating and stimulating.

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The students were particularly enthralled by a story in which Sadie was bitten by an amphibian! Many were shocked to learn that the critters have small sandpaper-like teeth.

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Sadie offered multiple hands-on activities, and the students were able to engage with the sights and sounds of amphibians, while also learning a bit about their role in ecology.

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In one activity the students were each given two papers. On command they all raised sheet no. 1 into the air and looked around the classroom. There was a plethora of beautiful and highly varied species of amphibians.

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Then they were instructed to hold up sheet no. 2 and look around. It was only bullfrogs. This helped students conceptualize the importance of biodiversity.

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Next the students worked on matching pictures of fully grown amphibians to images of their egg masses. This was an exploratory way to learn about the life cycle of these fascinating creatures.

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The lecture ended with an activity in which Sadie played audio sounds of different amphibian’s calls and the class tried to identify which species it belonged to. It was impressive how well some of the students did on this and we learned that they can often hear frogs chirping from a nearby wetland.

looking up at frog card

It was a thrilling and inspiring day of learning. After being unsure of the reception we’d find in the Special Offenders Unit, we were delighted to discover one of the best lecture audiences we have had. We here at SPP, as well as MCC staff and students, are all looking forward to the next one.