Author Archives: galbri23

SPP Plant Profile: Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata)

SPP Plant Profile: Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata)
Asteraceae Family

Basic Information

Blanketflower is a tap-rooted perennial, with large showy yellow and reddish-brown flowers. Leaves are alternate, 3-6 inches long with coarsely toothed and deeply divided margins. The species is moderately long-lived, and re-seeds in abundance once established. Distributed throughout the northern part of North America and the Western United States, it’s found in dry open spaces in prairies, mountain foothills and roadside clearings.

Ecological Importance

Blanketflower stands as a nectar and food source, as well as providing resting and cover, for many important pollinators and beneficial insects. Edward fritillary (Speyeria Edwards) butterflies rely on the species as a nectar source in their adult stage. A moth species, (Schinia masoni), is camouflaged to specifically mimic the yellow ray flowers and purplish-brown disk flowers to aid in avoiding predators. Throughout Western North America, blanketflower is pollinated by the soft-winged flower beetle (Listrus senilis), recognized as a critical pollinator of the species. Blanketflower and its associated beneficial insects are main components of many northern grassland ecosystems, breaking down organic matter, increasing soil fertility and improving soil water-holding capacity and water infiltration.

Fun Facts:

Blanketflower’s drought tolerance and brilliant flowers make it a popular choice for residential and commercial landscapes. Its low water demand leads to its use in low watering zones of XeriscapeTM and water wise gardens. Furthermore, the mature leaves of blanket flower are unpalatable and its rough textured stems make this species deer-resistant, even though some whitetail deer will browse lightly at different times of the year. Finally, as long as soils are well draining, no serious pest or disease problems are associated with blanketflower, adding to its ease of growth in both the nursery and in backyards.

Close-up of Gaillardia aristata flowers. Photo by R.Gilbert.


Blanketflower on the prairie. Photo by R.Gilbert.

SPP Plant Profile: Philadelphia or Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

SPP Plant Profile: Philadelphia or Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Last week, SPP and CNLM staff, along with volunteers from the community, sowed more than 130 flats (about 12,748 individual cones and roughly 131,200 seeds) of Erigeron philadelphicus. What a perfect time for a SPP plant profile highlighting this species!

Basic Information

A fairly common species, Philadelphia fleabane is found across the United States as well as in most of Canada. This low-growing perennial has alternate leaves that clasp the stem, with the lowest leaves found in a basal rosette. The flowers of this species are small, pink to white with more than 100 ray flowers per head with a bright yellow center.

Ecological Importance

The pollen and nectar of this species attract many insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, and beetles.

Fun Facts

The genus, erigeron, comes from the Greek eri (early) and geron (old man). This may refer to the early flowering of the species, as well as the hoary down that is found on the plant, reminiscent of an old man’s beard.

This species is also a widely used medicinal species. A tea made from the plant is astringent, diaphoretic, and diuretic. It has been used in the treatment of diarrhea, gout, and epilepsy. A poultice (soft, moist mass of plant material) is used to treat headaches and is applied to sores. However, treatment can induce miscarriage in pregnant women, and some people experience minor dermatitis when handling this species.

Erigeron philadelphicus is considered invasive in suburban Shanghai, China. In these areas it has been found to accumulate heavy metals including Cu, Cd, Cr, Pb and Zn in the root, leaf and stems. It has also been shown to exhibit allelopathic effects on the growth of seedlings of four crop species in the area. Aqueous extracts from the species inhibited growth of Brassica chinensis, Brassica campestris, Cucumis sativus, and Lycopersicum esculetum.

Close-up of Philadelphia fleabane. This species has more than 100 ray flowers per head. Photo by R.Gilbert.

Erigeron philadelphicus on a prairie. Photo by R.Gilbert.











SPP Evaluations Internship Experience

SPP Evaluations Internship Experience

by SPP Undergraduate Intern Jaal Mann

Editor’s Note: Jaal is one of three stellar Evergreen undergraduates who have been working with SPP during the spring quarter.  He has been an intern for not one but TWO (related!) SPP programs: evaluations and prairie plant conservation.  This week, he writes about the world of survey analysis and lecture-based environmental education.

As an undergraduate intern with the Sustainability in Prison Project for the last 10 weeks, there has been a lot to learn. I have spent much of my time analyzing the survey responses from the lecture series in the prisons, and it has been fascinating and inspiring to see some of the positive feedback that the inmates return.

Inmates learned about the benefits of shopping locally and pledged to do so in the future after attending a lecture about organic agriculture. After a lecture on energy use and biofuels, they learned how biofuels could play a role in solving energy problems and “would love to see [biofuels] to be used by our farming communities to operate their equipment.”

The lecture series is able to reach a much broader inmate population than the frog, butterfly, or native plant projects.  It is SPP’s hope that this wide variety of inmates attending sustainability lectures will take home a different view of the subject of the lecture and of the overall subject of everyday sustainability.

Many of these lectures have left inmates with lasting lifelong information and skills, such as how to use natural herbs to treat illnesses, that “not just herbicides will kill plants”, and “to be mindful of what goes down the drain.”

Evaluation of effectiveness is a complex subject, but so far it is evident that not only knowledge-based responses are improving through lectures, but attitudes about the subjects and sustainability as well.

While our evaluation techniques are still being improved, when we hear that attendees have learned “about the importance of balance needed between our use of land, care for land and the value of butterflies to the balances needed,” and that “the world is way more complicated than I ever thought,” it definitely helps us know that we must be doing something right.

SPP staff member Carl Elliot gives a lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Lecture content is evaluated using pre- and post-lecture surveys.

Sorting through pre- and post-lecture evaluations is a big job! We use evaluations to understand knowledge retention and attitude changes as a result of our lectures and workshops.

To support unique educational opportunities for college students as well as incarcerated men and women, click here to donate to SPP.


SPP Butterfly Internship Experience

SPP Butterfly Internship Experience

by SPP Undergraduate Intern Chelsea Oldenburg

Editor’s Note: SPP has had the pleasure of working with three wonderful Evergreen undergraduate interns during this spring quarter.  Over the next few weeks, blog visitors will have the chance to read about their experiences in the students’ own words.

After 8 weeks of working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women as an intern for the butterfly program a lot of unexpected things have become commonplace for me. It’s amazing how quickly I acclimate to my surroundings. After only a few days of visiting, the prison guards, razor wire and coveralls seemed normal. As does manipulating the curled proboscis of a butterfly with a paper clip and watching her perfectly paint plantain leaves with bright yellow eggs.

So far my main work this quarter has been facilitating an oviposition preference study that Dennis Aubrey is doing for his masters thesis. This means observing which plants female Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on.

The women are carrying out the study five or six days a week and so Dennis, Caitlin (another intern) or I rotate coming out to insure things are running smoothly, bring supplies and run a few of the preference trials ourselves. Usually we also get a chance to help with some of the daily chores of captive rearing. These chores include: feeding adult butterflies a honey-water mixture from a q-tip, transferring eggs into various containers with a paintbrush, freshening water and supplying plantain leaves to hungry caterpillars. Aside from housekeeping and study overseeing there is a lot of time to converse with the women from MCCCW that are working on the project. They seem to truly love the butterflies they are raising and I am always impressed by their fastidiousness, acute observations and consistent positive attitudes. The love seems to go both ways as the butterflies flourish under their care.  A couple of weeks ago I was sent home from The Oregon Zoo with many more larvae, pupae and adult butterflies to bring to MCCCW because of the success with their current stock. Maybe the women at Mission Creek can care for these transforming insects from a place of real understanding as they simultaneously undergo incredible personal transformations themselves.

For the last few weeks of my internship I am excited to erect some raised beds around the butterfly rearing greenhouse. After the frames are built and a lot of soil is shoveled in, we are going to fill the beds with native prairie plants, larval food plants and nectar flowers for feeding the adult butterflies. Two of the women I work with seem genuinely excited to help with the project. Although I will be sorry to end my visits to the prison at the close of this quarter it feels good knowing I will leave behind some nourishing infrastructure.

Want to support innovative educational opportunities and the rearing of endangered butterflies?  Donate to SPP by clicking here.

SPP Plant Profile: Puget Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)

SPP Plant Profile: Puget Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Basic Information:

Balsamorhiza deltoidea, or Puget balsamroot, is late spring flowering perennial with showy sunflower like flowers. The distinct leaves of this species are basal, wide, and spear shaped. The flower stems can be up to 3 feet tall, and it is found in open, grassy areas, at low to high elevations from Southern British Columbia to Northern California.

Ecological Importance:

Considered critically imperiled but globally secure in Canada, only eight natural populations containing roughly 1,600 mature plants are thought to remain north of the border. These remaining populations are declining due to development and continued habitat degradation from competition with invasive species. There are 15 reported populations in the state of Washington. Evidence suggests that five of these populations may have been extirpated. A recent study by researchers at the University of Puget Sound* has shown that Puget Balsamroot appears to be incapable of self-pollination, and is dependent on pollinators for reproduction. However, decreases in pollinator species like bumblebees and honey-bee populations and increasing fragmentation and degradation of suitable habitat limits the natural reproduction of this and many other species.

Fun Facts:

Puget balsamroot is well known for its traditional culinary and medicinal uses. This includes its use as chicken feed by early settlers on Vancouver Island, suggesting that it was common in the area during that time period. The roots of Puget balsamroot are edible raw and when cooked have a sweet taste.  Young shoots can also be eaten raw, and seeds eaten raw or cooked. The roasted root can be used as a coffee substitute and seeds can be ground into a powder and made into bread. Medicinally, a decoction of the roots was used in the treatment of coughs and colds.

Puget balsamroot flowering on the prairie.


Taylor's checkerspot butterflies and Puget balsamroot. Photo by R. Gilbert.
















To donate to SPP and support endangered prairie plant conservation, please click here.

*This study can be found at:

SPP at Save the Frogs!

SPP at Save the Frogs!

On Saturday, April 28,  SPP Graduate Research Associates Dennis Aubrey, Andrea Martin, and Brittany Gallagher took part in the Save the Frogs Day 5K at Seward Park in Seattle.  SPP Undergrad Interns Jaal Mann and Caitlin Fate also made the trip and ran SPP’s information booth at the event.

It was a beautiful sunny day to run around the park and chat with interested amphibian lovers about restoration through incarceration.  SPP partner Marc Hayes gave a short lecture at the event after the 256 runners had completed the course.

Save the Frogs is an amphibian conservation organization at work in more than 200 countries.  For more information on them, see

To find out more about the event in Seattle (and future STF events), visit

To see more pictures of SPP at the event (and to hear what else we’re up to), check out SPP on Facebook!

Stormwater presentation at WCCW: Inmate blog

“Stormwater: Life in the Gutter” at WCCW: Inmate blog

Editor’s note: This post was written by an inmate at Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW), where SPP hosts a monthly Science & Sustainability lecture series.  On May 1, Stokley Towles, a performance artist and faculty member at The Evergreen State College, gave a highly entertaining presentation called “Stormwater: Life in the Gutter” to a group of nearly 40 inmates at WCCW.
Mr. Towles will be performing this piece for the public starting this Friday, May 4, at the Seattle Center.  For more information, please see

Today I attended a 2 hour presentation of “Storm Watch” which took place in A Building at Purdy Prison, also known as WCCW, or vice versa.

WOW! Talk about an out-of-body experience! Not only was I able to get out of my cramped cell and leave the unit I live in; this is the first time in 5 years of being incarcerated  here in WCCW that I actually felt like being part of a community.

Who would ever guess that hearing about bowel excretion could feel like connecting with one’s community?! No, really! This guy from the Sustainability in Prisons Project was showing us diagrams from a laptop and projector on one of the walls in the visiting room on how storm water and sewage is piped underground from neighborhoods, and pretty soon before I knew it, I was enthralled in the dialog of communication from offenders. This guy whose nickname was “Street”  was beautiful – no kidding – he even showed us the hot pink socks he was wearing! Yeah, right there in the visiting room he props up his leg onto a table with the heel of his black, soft leather , worn dress shoe on the edge of the table and hikes up his beige chino slacks and displays his HOT PINK SOCKS! He, aka Street, says “I spend a lot of time with the sewage plant workers and garbage collectors, getting to know what they do on their jobs, actually walking around with them all day, seeing and hearing how they feel and what they think about what they’re doing. Everyone who works for the Seattle Sewage Plant gets a nickname. It’s for security reasons, because working for the City of Seattle is like being one big happy family and using an alias protects their identity out in the field”.

Today for just a minute I was out there – out in the field with Street, watching the sky for oncoming storms and climbing down storm drains (with a gas mask), checking out neighborhood ponds for “beaver workaholics”. Huh. Yeah. I felt like being connected to something other than being an offender incarcerated here in Prison. I sure the heck wasn’t thinking about all that chaos and drama back in the unit  I live in during those brief 110 minutes or so.

Thank you, Sustainability-in-Prisons-Project!

Thank you Stokley Towles!

Thank you Brittany Gallagher!

Thank you AA Paula Andrew!

Please come back!!

Stokley Towles performs "Stormwater: Life in the Gutter" as part of SPP's Science and Sustainability Lecture Series at WCCW on May 1, 2012.


To donate to SPP and support science and sustainability education in unlikely places, please click here.

New Frog Rearing Practices at Cedar Creek

New Frog Rearing Practices at Cedar Creek
By Graduate Research Associate Andrea Martin

Frog season has arrived in Western Washington! Cedar Creek Corrections Center is now home to 315 tadpoles.  Oregon spotted frog eggs were brought into the prison from Black River and Conboy Lake Wildlife Refuge by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists.  There was a significant die-off initially of the Black River eggs; we lost 54 of the initial 158.  Happily, the organisms from Conboy have had a much higher success rate; only four of the original eggs never hatched.

Cedar Creek is undergoing several significant changes in rearing protocol this season.  These changes are designed to provide consistency amongst all of the institutions raising Oregon Spotted Frogs, of which SPP and Cedar Creek are only one of four.

The most significant change is the implementation of net pens to raise the eggs and tadpoles.  In the last 3 years, the eggs have been raised in shoebox-sized plastic bins until they were big enough to be moved to tubs large enough to hold up to 200 growing frogs.

The net pens are a square foot in area, and provide floating habitats for the growing tadpoles.  SPP staff made 20 of the pens using PVC piping to create the enclosure.  The nets were clipped onto the pipes so that they would hang through the middle, and floating mats were cut into strips and secured with zip ties to give the pens extra buoyancy.  Between 15 and 20 tadpoles live in each net pen.

The shoeboxes required much more attention to water quality than the nets.  In the net pens, fecal matter and most extra uneaten food falls through the nets and into the larger tubs, making water changing a less demanding and less frequent chore.  The shoeboxes require multiple water changes every day.  Our rearing partners switched to the net pens last year.

While frequent water changing wasn’t a problem for Cedar Creek, water temperature was problematic.  The shoeboxes were kept inside the shed where the inmates raise crickets.  Because of the small space and the multiple heat lamps, the room is usually at least 70 degrees, and sometimes would get much hotter.  It was nearly impossible to get the water temperature below 70 for the tadpoles, when 65 would be a more preferable.

In the net pens submersible water heaters can keep the large outdoor tubs regulated at 65 degrees, which provides a more realistic environment, and also has a higher oxygen concentration for the growing tadpoles.

So far the transition has been a success, with no tadpole mortalities.  It has been a fun learning process for all parties to record the successes and drawbacks of this new rearing protocol.  We all hope this is the beginning to another successful frog season!

A Cedar Creek frog technician inmate cleans out the net pens with a turkey baster. Photo by A. Martin.

The net pens float in the larger tubs, making water changes less frequent, and water temperature more consistent..JPG The net pens float in the larger tubs, making water changes less frequent, and water temperature more consistent.

The net pens float in the larger tubs, making water changes less frequent, and water temperature more consistent..JPG The net pens float in the larger tubs, making water changes less frequent, and water temperature more consistent. Photo by A. Martin.

To donate to SPP and support the rearing of Oregon spotted frogs in Washington state, click here.

59 Frogs released at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in March!

59 Frogs released at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in March!

By: Graduate Research Associate Andrea Martin

In November, Oregon spotted frogs raised at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, the Oregon Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park were released at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.  Sixty-three frogs that were too small to survive in the wild were brought to Cedar Creek to live the good life for the winter.

Four of the original frogs died, but the majority grew fat and healthy throughout the coldest time of the year.  The frogs weathered the January snowstorm very well, as generators kept their tanks near 70 degrees even as more than 15 inches of snow covered the prison grounds.

This group of frogs was the first at Cedar Creek to vary their diet with the Jamaican Black crickets the inmates have blogged about in the past. Unfortunately, the heavy snowfall insulated the hot cricket shack in January, raising the temperature to 113 degrees and killing a large portion of the crickets.  Luckily, the frogs didn’t starve.

On March 14th, SPP Project Manager Kelli Bush, Graduate Interns Dennis Aubrey and Andrea Martin, DOC Classification Counselor Marko Anderson, and JBLM Field Biologists Jim Lynch, John Richardson and Nick Miller released the 59 frogs that had survived the winter onto the military base.

Hopefully they are continuing to thrive through this very cold and wet spring!

SPP Frog Intern Andrea Martin releases an Oregon spotted frog.

DOC staff Marko Anderson tries to pick just one OSF at a time to release at JBLM.

Graduate Research Associate Dennis Aubrey and several frogs about to be released.

To donate to SPP and support the rearing of Oregon spotted frogs in Washington state, click here.

Newly arrived Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies thriving at MCCCW

Newly arrived Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies thriving at MCCCW

By Graduate Research Associate Dennis Aubrey

After a more than a year of preparation, the butterfly program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women is finally rearing endangered butterflies! Mary Jo Andersen brought 755 post diapause Taylor’s checkerspot larvae from the Oregon Zoo in early March, and when they emerged from their blue cooler, they found that they had been transported directly to caterpillar paradise. Cool nights and warm bright days, no rain but perfect moisture, tender hand-picked leaves delivered fresh every morning, no predators, vehicles, or hard freezes; what more could a caterpillar ask for? Many of them headed directly for the fresh leaves and began eating vigorously, much to Mary Jo’s amazement.

Part of the beauty of the new facility is the quality of the light. One of the limiting variables in rearing butterflies is UV light exposure, and the structure was built with that in mind. When the caterpillars arrived conditions were perfect and they responded immediately.

Of the 755 that Mary Jo brought, 600 were released a week later onto a Joint Base Lewis-McChord reintroduction site and 155 continue to develop at the prison. Because of the conditions, they have been growing and molting more quickly than at the Oregon Zoo, and some have already pupated. If anything, conditions may be too perfect!

As one way of assessing the “quality” of the conditions, inmates will be weighing and measuring adult butterflies when they emerge. This will be used to compare their weights with historic averages from the Oregon Zoo, because it is generally very challenging to rear full sized adults in captivity. One of the original goals of the facility design was to more closely mimic natural conditions in order to produce butterflies as large as wild-caught individuals, something Oregon Zoo has been unable to accomplish.

Another part of what we hope is our formula for success is the constant and thorough care that inmates can provide. The four currently involved with the project care for their charges meticulously, and we hope that also helps to produce natural-sized, healthy animals.

In addition to TLC, inmates also keep highly detailed records of their observations. In fact, they are now filling their third notebook with records beyond those they are asked for. They even hand-draw spreadsheets with rulers when details they want to record are not covered by the official forms.

This careful manner will soon become critical when they undertake an upcoming research project examining host plant preference. This will attempt to show which native prairie plants are most valuable to the butterfly as a resource in restoration plots. Not only is this critical, relevant research, but it also involves a second endangered species! One of the plants to be examined is state-endangered golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), so this spring inmates will be caring for two endangered species at Mission Creek!

To donate to SPP and support the rearing of endangered butterflies in Washington state, click here.