Author Archives: Sadie Gilliom

SPP Manager, Carl Elliott Recieves Restorationist of the Year Award!

by SPP Co-Director Kelli Bush

Sustainability in Prisons Project’s (SPP) Conservation Nursery Manager, Carl Elliott has been awarded the Society for Ecological Restoration Northwest Chapter’s  (SERNW) Restorationist of the Year Award for 2017.

Carl receiving the Restorationist of the Year 2017 award. Photo by Keegan Curry

The award is given “in recognition of individual efforts to promote ecosystem health, integrity and sustainability through ecological restoration.” Carl brings more than two decades of professional experience to SPP, including appearances as the “Radio Gardener” on a Seattle radio program, ecological restoration work with the Nature Conservancy, experience teaching organic gardening classes and serving as a founding board member of Seattle Youth Garden Works. During his graduate work in The Evergreen State College, Master of Environmental Studies program, Carl started SPP’s first Conservation Nursery program in a Washington Department of Corrections facility in 2009.

Carl explaining how to identify harsh Indian paint brush. Photo by Ricky Osborne

Carl giving a prairie tour. Photo by SPP Staff

SERNW presented this award in recognition of Carl’s “innovative application of horticulture to the restoration field in developing a conservation nursery program that additionally improves outcomes and conditions for incarcerated people in WA State’s correctional system.” With this award they “recognize the unique challenges and creativity needed” to develop a conservation nursery program in a prison while also providing education and training for incarcerated people. They also state that Carl’s work has “greatly expanded capacity for native seed production needed for glacial outwash prairie restoration.”

Carl teaching incarcerated students. Photo by Ricky Osborne

Carl teaching incarcerated students. Photo by Ricky Osborne

With partner support, Carl has helped grow the SPP Conservation Nursery Program from one prison to three prisons, producing over 2 million native plants of about 60 different species. In 2016, Carl and the SPP staff he oversees, delivered more than 130 educational workshops and seminars for incarcerated program participants. More than 130 incarcerated people have participated in these programs since 2010. We are so grateful for all of Carl’s contributions to SPP and pleased that he has been recognized for his excellent work!

Cedar Creek Turtle Release 2017

By Turtle Technician, William Anglemyer
Photos by Sadie Gilliom

On the morning of April 17th, ten turtles from the SPP Cedar Creek Turtle Program were released onto a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife site in Lakewood, WA. The turtles had been receiving care at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center since November of 2016.

The turtle habitat

It was great to see them swim off into the ponds. Some of them had very extensive wounds when they were first arrived CCCC. As the technicians that care for the turtles after their treatment at PAWS, we were relieved to see them finally out of captivity. When they are in our care, they are provided the best treatment possible. Warm water to heal in, high protein food to eat, a clean tank habitat-all are provided at our rehabilitation facility. However, these are wild creatures and, as such, they belong in the wild-not in a tank.

Getting ready to release!

Immediately after being placed in the shallows, and even though western pond turtles are not the most expressive species, we interpreted their lack of hesitation swimming into the pond as revealing a kind of excitement for being back into the wilds. They were taken from the plastic shoebox containers used to transport them and placed them in the shallow water on the bank. We each grabbed a turtle and released them at the same time. We repeated this until all 10 turtles were released. As they left our hands, they swam as fast as they could until they disappeared into the murkiness of the pond.

Turtle Technicians, Mr. Anglemyer and Mr. Eldridge, releasing the turtles.

Sadly, we realize that this may not be the last time these turtles experience release from captivity back into the wild; some may have to return to captivity for re-treatment. The shell disease that is plaguing these turtles is still being researched and much is yet unknown. Biologists and veterinarians are working hard to figure out what causes the disease and how to cure it effectively.

Prison Shares Earthworm Wealth with Northwest Trek Wildlife Park

Text and photos by Sadie Gilliom, current SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator and previous Northwest Trek employee

The worm bin built for Northwest Trek with the team who created it.

Inside the three rows of razor wire, Monroe Correctional Complex houses more than incarcerated people. A partnership between an incarcerated individual and a correctional staff member initiated a waste reduction program that now is home for millions of thriving earthworms. Under the supervision of an officer, and with support from SPP-Evergreen, Nick Hackney—now a world renowned worm expert—and his team grew 200 worms into more than 10 million that process up to 40,000 lbs of food waste per month! The worm farm’s success has inspired addition of other programs; all are housed within a larger Sustainable Practices Lab. All the lab’s program have the benefit of coordination and oversite provided by Officer Jeff Swan.

This program has been around for over 6 years now, and the worm technicians have been spreading their worm wealth.  Most recently, the crew came built a heated outdoor worm bin for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (Trek).  Trek plans to use the worm bin as a public engagement tool and will feed the worms with the scraps from the staff lunchroom.

Mr. Hackney shows Rachael Mueller how to use Trek’s new worm bin.

I had the privilege of coordinating the delivery and escorting a member of Trek’s conservation team, Rachael Mueller, up to Monroe for a tour and pick up of the finished product. I was present as two unlikely sustainability partners came together. It was a beautiful moment!

Mr. Juan shows how they use Bokashi bran to ferment meat before feeding it to the worms.

A few of the vermiculture techs helped load the bin into the truck.

Vermiculture Tech’s, Sadie Gilliom and Rachael Mueller pose at the end of the worm program tour.

The worm team at Monroe gave Trek a well-designed worm bin, shared their knowledge on how to maintain it and gave them a sample of black soldier fly larvae from a pilot program to see if they would want to use them as animal feed. Northwest Trek will be sharing the knowledge and story of the worm team’s impact on sustainability practices with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. I would call that a great partnership!

Mr. Hackney and Rachael Mueller shake hands after the exchange

Thank you to Northwest Trek—especially the Conservation and Education Curator Jessica Moore—for being open to the idea. A big thank to the Monroe worm team and Officer Swan for donating their knowledge and a beautiful worm bin to Trek and their generations of visitors to come!

New Turtles and New Technicians!

Text and photos by Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom

Cedar Creek and Larch Corrections Centers programs just received new turtles last week!

New turtle at Larch Corrections Center

New turtle at Cedar Creek Corrections Center

These turtles just finished their treatments at PAWS wildlife rehabilitation center and the Oregon Zoo and moved on to the prisons to be cared for and monitored by the trained turtle technicians at the prisons.

Technician Eldridge holding a new turtle at Cedar Creek

Speaking of turtle technicians, we would like to welcome two new technicians who joined the Larch program at the same time the turtles arrived. A big salutations to Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Larson!  They are getting some great training from current lead technician, Mr. Goff, before he moves on to try out the new dog program at Larch.

Two new turtle technicians at Larch posing with new turtles

Here’s to new turtles, new technicians, and to the future release of these turtles back into the wild!

Happy New Year!

New Turtles Arrived!

Text and photos by Sadie Gilliom, SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator

After a few months of waiting, Cedar Creek and Larch Corrections Centers have each received a new batch of turtles for their Western Pond Turtle Rehabilitation Programs!

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One particularly adorable turtle who recently arrived at Cedar Creek.

During this waiting period, the turtles received acute care for shell disease, which included antibiotics, antifungal medication and shell surgery.  The turtles that have arrived have completed treatments and just need watchful eyes and extra time to heal and wait out the winter months. The technicians provide all of this and more. They were excited to have new turtles to care for and prep for their eventual release back into the wild!

Mr. Hill, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

Mr. Hill, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

Mr. Goff, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

Mr. Goff, a Turtle Technician at Larch, getting ready to put a new turtle in her tank.

I delivered the turtles with the help of WDFW biologist, Emily Butler, to Cedar Creek on Monday November 1st and just this Monday  Larch received their turtles. We were honored to have Dr. Matt Brooks, a nutritionist from the Oregon Zoo, to help us transport the turtles to Larch.  This was Dr. Brooks’ first visit to the turtle program.  He is helping us to improve turtle health by increasing the nutritional value of their diets. We are so thankful for his help, as we are always looking for ways to improve the quality of care provided to these endangered turtles.  Thank you Dr. Brooks!

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Dr. Brooks and the Turtle Technicians posing with a bin full of mealworms. Dr. Brooks took a sample of mealworms back with him to test their nutritional value.

Turtle 4176’s Release

Co-Authored by Western Pond Turtle Technicians Taylour Eldridge and William Anglemyer

On Monday October 3rd, turtle 4176 was released from the Turtle Rehabilitation program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center . She had been there for quite some time—about 4 months, with a month long intermission at PAWS wildlife rehabilitation center in Lynnwood, WA—then back for another 4 months.  She had suffered from seizure-like episodes and for awhile it looked like she wouldn’t be deemed releasable back into the wild.  We had been worried, as people who have spent time in solitary confinement ourselves, that months in captivity would have a detrimental effect on her.  So it was a great relief to finally load her into a container and board a van destined to deliver her to the Lakewood Western Pond Turtle Refuge.

Turtle Technicians, Mr. Anglemyer and Mr. Eldridge, getting ready to release turtle 4176. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

When we arrived, we were met by Washington State Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Emily Butler.  In addition to facilitating the turtle release, Ms. Butler showed us how the radio telemetry transmitters are attached to the turtles. We were then given a training on how to use the radio receivers and Ms. Butler took us to the area where the turtles lay their nests.  She had hidden two mock (plastic) turtles with transmitters attached to the shells.  We took turns using the radio receiver and the attached antenna to find the plastic turtles. We both found it quite difficult; it’s not even close to easy to use the radio telemetry equipment.  But we were eventually successful in locating them–truthfully, we received some visual hints. We have a new-found respect for anyone who has to attempt to find turtle nests in this manner.

Technician, Mr. Eldridge, learning to use the radio telemetry equipment. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Apart from the experience making us much more aware of the very difficult work of finding nests, it was a great learning experience which gave us a new found appreciation for the hands-on work that goes on in the field—a part of the program we’d never been privy to before. We learned of the plethora of other activities that the biologists do every day to help with the recovery of this amazing species.

We both feel good about being part of the SPP Western Pond Turtle Rehabilitation Program and we cannot think of a more worthwhile job—especially as people in an incarceration setting. We’re looking forward to helping the next batch of turtles get through their healing process and seeing them released back into the wild.  We hope the day will come soon when there are no more turtles that need help healing.  Hopefully, the future will bring multitudes of healthy turtles living in their natural habitat.

Sustainable Practices Lab at Washington State Reformatory

By Officer Jeff Swan

Within the last year, Washington State Reformatory (WSRU) at Monroe Correctional Complex has consolidated its wood shop, bike shop, and Worm Farm, and added wheelchair and black soldier fly programs to create a thriving Sustainable Practices Lab.

Joni and Friends’ Wheels for the World: We work with this non-profit organization to restore wheelchairs and for individuals in need in 3rd and 4th world countries. WSRU started the program in May of this year, and now has more than 275 wheelchairs nearly ready for our first shipment container, set to sail to Nigeria at the beginning of November. Our goal is to restore more than 1,000 wheelchairs every year.

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Representatives from Wheels for the World pose with SPL program inmates and staff and two of their restored wheelchairs.

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A Wheels for the World representative discusses wheelchair restoration with the group.

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Worm Farm: Our Worm Farm is a full-scale waste management operation that uses vermicomposting to convert food waste into prized fertilizer. Technicians feed food waste to worms housed in “flow-through” bins, and collect the castings (worm manure) produced at the other end of the process. The Worm Farm houses 7 million worms in commercial-style bins, and has the capacity to handle more than 20,000 pounds of food waste per month. Food waste disposal from the WSRU has been cut by half so far, and we are on track to attain zero waste from the kitchen. (Editor’s note: The program now serves as an international model for worm composting.)

vermiculture-bins

Based on consultations with leading experts for vermiculture and vermicomposting, available materials, and trial and error, the team has built many kinds of worm bins, and continually makes improvements to the operation.

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The BSF program space is a relatively small enclosure within the much larger Worm Farm—the enclosed space is easy to heat (these insects need a warm environment), and keeps flies from flying away!

Black Soldier Flies: Animal-based fats and oils cannot be fed directly to the Worm Farm worms, and the team sought a solution for handling meat and dairy waste. In August of 2015, we received approval and funding from the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) to conduct a six month trial with Black Soldier Flies (BSF). The pilot showed that BSF processing is an efficient and highly productive method for converting meat and dairy waste into a beneficial product. At the conclusion of the six month trial, from more than 3 lbs/foot3/day of food waste, we had a sustained harvest of 80 ounces of larvae/day. We donate excess larvae to nearby zoos as high-quality animal feed. Building on this success, we are expanding the BSF operation.

The Bike Shop: This program provides a way for inmate to give back to their own communities by helping nearby kids and families in need. The local Sheriff’s Office and police donate unclaimed bikes to the program. Technicians assess each bike, and restore them to excellent working order. We deliver the refurbished bikes to the Snohomish Boys & Girls’ Club and local food banks for distribution to families who couldn’t otherwise afford a bike.

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The wood shop, bike shop, and Wheels for the World share space in the SPL, and the productivity in each program is clearly visible!

Wood Shop: In the SPL’s wood shop, you will find inmates making wooden toys, cars & trucks, jewelry boxes and games. We will deliver some of these items to local fire and police departments for distribution to community members. We will donate others to local food banks and the Children’s Hospital. We retain a small portion of the creations for fund-raising; we auction them and proceeds are put back into the program to keep it self-sustaining.

 

Creative Illustrations for Monarch Butterfly Conservation

By Graduate Research Assistant, Jeanne Dodds

Photos by Ricky Osborne

Drawing and art making are powerful tools to increase the ability to focus, relax, and develop creative problem solving in areas far beyond visual art. As an artist, illustrator and teacher, my experience working with students has illuminated the understanding that drawing teaches people to see. When we look closely in the way that illustration demands, we observe and comprehend the subtle details that make our subject significant and unique.

Teaching the art of the butterfly

Teaching the art of the butterfly

We learn so much by looking closely, understanding, and representing. These were ideas I hoped to convey when planning a natural science illustration class as part of an internship with SPP for students at Airway Heights Correctional Center.

The illustration workshop was developed around the essential relationship between milkweed and Monarch butterflies and —most importantly—how creating artwork about this relationship can inspire understanding of core issues facing the imperiled Monarch butterfly and actions we can take to preserve and restore this species.

Studying the butterfly specimens

This internship project, pursued with support from SPP staff, the Endangered Species Coalition, Airway Heights, and other partners, centers on the proposal to develop a milkweed propagation site at the prison. The idea is to grow a species of milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, which is native to Washington State. Milkweed seed from plants grown in the prison would  be collected by technicians for habitat restoration at designated sites near Spokane. The project goal would be to increase habitat for the Western population of the Monarch butterfly. Milkweed is the obligate host plant for Monarchs; eggs are laid on the plant and emergent caterpillars consume the leaves of the plants, developing toxicity which makes them undesirable to predators such as birds. Habitat where milkweed has historically grown has been destroyed due to pesticide use, changes in land use patterns, and other factors. Without milkweed, the only host plant for key lifecycle stages, the survival of Monarch butterflies is imperiled.

Inspiring message from an incarcerated artist: lifecycle of the Monarch

Sharing knowledge about this symbiotic relationship between butterfly and plant by creating illustrations with students and corrections staff at Airway Heights was inspiring. The workshop participants asked insightful questions, expressing concerns about how the loss of important pollinators such as Monarchs will impact other species, including humans. They saw the intricate detail of Monarch wing scales and milkweed leaves in specimens borrowed from the University of Washington. These observations were captured in detailed, creative colored pencil and graphite illustrations.

We talked about how drawing is a practice that takes patience and that mistakes made provide opportunities to reinforce skills. At the end, we viewed all of the work in a classroom gallery walk and shared what we noticed; a key observation was how everyone approached the project in their own way, some realistically, others adding words, some representing their ideas about how to protect these species. One of the most profound observations was how drawing and educational workshops like this allow students to feel reconnected to the community and themselves. It’s my hope that this connection will extend outward toward the development of a milkweed planting project and restoration of habitat for Monarchs, a species that so eloquently represents cycles of growth, transformation, and renewal.

Jeanne Dodds is a Teaching Artist, illustrator, and photographer who explores themes of connection and discord in the relationship between humans and the natural world. She is an incoming student with the fall 2016 MES cohort, and interned with SPP to research milkweed and Monarchs during summer quarter.

Prairie Restoration Lecture

by Gretchen Graber, Institute for Applied Ecology

This past August, Stacy Moore from Institute of Applied Ecology, (IAE) gave a presentation on prairie restoration at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) in Connell, WA. The presentation is part of an on-going monthly sustainability lecture series created by the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP). IAE and CRCC staff work collaboratively to offer a variety of subjects including soil conservation, fracking, climate change, song birds of the shrub-steppe and monarch migration research.

Inmates ask the best questions and provide great comments about their own experience making the presentation an interactive learning experience. Often inmates ask, “How can I get involved?” to which partnership staff respond by providing additional environmental education materials and information about conservation efforts and future volunteer opportunities.

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In Service to the Earth

Mike Brown, a student in Mr. Scott Knapp’s horticulture class at Cedar Creek Corrections Center shared his poem with Mr. Knapp, who then shared it with us.  With Mr. Brown’s permission,  we now share it with all of you:

In Service to the Earth

To those who heal and protect the earth

In all ways and large.

To those who throw a protective shield ‘gainst

Industries toxic barge.

 

Endangered Checkerspot Butterfly from Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff

Endangered Checkerspot Butterfly from Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff.

 

Valued be the composters; gardeners;

Breeders of worms; frogs; bees and soil renewers.

To those who train dogs for the military vet;

Much appreciation, though we’ve never met.

To those who choose to purify the air.

Makers of clean water…all share,

From rivers, lakes, creeks and sea’s.

To those who plant trees.

 

Rearing Endangered Frogs. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

 

Valued are those who heal the prairies,

Grasslands, and renew the seeds.

Those who fight pollution by recycling and restore

The lore of fisheries

Herbs of plants (their healing salve),

Wildflowers that feed the gopher, butterfly,

And larks in the sky.

Valued are those who ask questions, “Why?”

 

Amending the Soil. Photo by SPP Staff.

 

Valued are those who heal cities.

Healing to them for whom the flock flows slowly.

To those with excitement and creativity.

Those who promote prison sustainability.

Beekeeping at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff

Beekeeping at Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by SPP Staff.

Valued are those who’s wounded and bled,

Who risk themselves in service to the earth.

To all who give, nature will sing:

“Thank you for life,” courtesy of everything!”

-Mike Brown