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Graduations and Transitions

By Jaal Mann, SPP Graduate Research Assistant

After over two years working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project, it’s difficult to move on from this highly supportive and tight-knit group who work together to help everyone achieve success.

While I am sad to leave the program, the graduate students who come and go are part of what makes SPP the organization it is. Every year, a new batch of students begins to work with the program, advancing their own research in ways that can improve SPP’s practices, and bringing their fresh perspectives and ideas to the programs.

SPP's second-year conservation nursery graduate students, from left to right: Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras. Jaal and Drissia have finished their Masters studies and will be moving on at the end of the month.

SPP’s second-year conservation nursery graduate students, from left to right: Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras. Jaal and Drissia have finished their Masters studies and will be moving on at the end of the month.

At the same time, major transitions have happened in the Prairie Restoration Crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Several inmates on the crew were released, and others moved on to different jobs. We recently held a graduation ceremony for crew members who had completed a certain number of hours of work, and it was great to be able to show recognition for their efforts.

Inmates on Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s Prairie Restoration Crew, past and present, receive recognition for their efforts over the past year in a graduation ceremony at the corrections center.

Inmates on Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s Prairie Restoration Crew, past and present, received recognition for their efforts over the past year in a graduation ceremony at the corrections center.

Three new graduate students have joined the conservation nursery team. The nursery programs will continue to flourish while providing life-changing experiences for both inmates and students who have the opportunity to work in them.

Clallam Bay Corrections Center Photo Gallery

Photos and text by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

On September 3rd, Evergreen’s SPP staff visited Clallam Bay Corrections Center (CBCC). Corrections staff proved gracious and enthusiastic hosts. Hearing about their sustainability programs and plans for the future was well worth the trek from Olympia. Here is a photo gallery of some of the highlights:

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We were dazzled by their greenhouse–every food plant inside was the picture of health. We sampled peas, lettuce, and tomatoes, and appreciated what a difference fresh produce must make to a prison menu.

 

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The Food Services Manager and Gardener at CBCC have only worked together a few months, and already have figured out how to make the most of garden yields in the kitchen; a predictable harvest schedule has reduced grocery expenses, and meant that inmates opt to eat more lettuce.

 

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CBCC sits on 92 acres, and there is ample room for expanding the gardening program inside and outside the fence. This photo shows an area outside the the windows of the Intensive Management Units, a site for future garden beds.

 

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The prison already grows squash (shown here), carrots, radishes, spinach and other greens, herbs, and flowers. They have plans to add blueberries, rhubarb, and perhaps even gourmet mushrooms–crops that they know would be productive in their wet, mild climate.

 

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Here bok choy seedlings respond to the benefits of soil improved by compost–these sprouted much more quickly than those in unimproved soil.

 

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Prison staff have heard very positive feedback from inmates on the new garden program. It is incredible what they have accomplished this year, especially when you consider that they didn’t get started until June! Plans are to double their efforts in 2015, including using every inch of the central courtyard for growing food and ornamental plants.

 

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The prison has a vocational baking program that provides inmates with culinary experience and offers staff and the town bakery fresh-baked deliciousness.

 

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The prison has excellent waste sorting practices in place, and they are ready to expand their recycling and composting programs.

 

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They shared a vision of near-zero waste: a single trash can wheeled out to the curb from a facility housing nearly 900 men. We can’t wait!

 

Our thanks to our hosts Superintendent Obenland, Associate Superintendent Mike Tupper, Facilities Manager Jack Brandt, Gardener Mike Indendi, Food Services Manager Jerry McAffe, and Roots of Success Liaison Mark Black. We look forward to seeing your sustainability programs grow by leaps and bounds!

Reaching higher at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

The group tours CRCC's main campus.

The group tours CRCC’s main campus.

SPP Peer to Peer gathering

By Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager
All photos by Kelly Frakes, Capitol Programs

Twenty-two people gathered at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) for a two-day, high-intensity meeting at the end of June. This was a “peer to peer” event, funded in part by the SPP Network Conference Grant from the National Science Foundation. To make plans for CRCC’s sustainability programs, we brought experts (“peers”) in sustainability from Airway Heights Corrections Center and Washington State Penitentiary, WA Department of Ecology, Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), and SPP staff from Washington Department of Corrections headquarters and The Evergreen State College. Many of CRCC’s administrative and operations staff joined the meeting, and they proved both gracious hosts and willing subjects.

The state of the art laundry facility at CRCC reclaims heat and water at multiple steps.

The state of the art laundry facility at CRCC reclaims heat and water at multiple steps.

The first order of business for the visitors was learning about CRCC’s campus and existing sustainability programs. CRCC’s main complex is Washington’s newest prison, opened in 2009. It holds the distinction of being the only LEED Gold Certified prison campus in the country. Linda Glasier from WA Ecology related that the extra costs incurred by meeting LEED Gold standards was paid back in about six months (through energy savings), and that CRCC is one of the state’s most resource-efficient complexes. This infrastructure could be the foundation for surpassing sustainable operations programs in a prison.

The central yard at CRCC reflects the need to use no water for irrigation. The prison is located in a desert.

CRCC is located in a desert. The stark central yard reflects the standard of using little-to-no water for irrigation.

One of the challenges faced by CRCC is How to bring nature inside without using more water?

One of the challenges faced by CRCC is How to bring nature inside without using more water?

After an initial welcome and setting the stage, the group toured many areas of the expansive campus: kitchen, warehouse, laundry, textile shop, a living unit, the main yard, and waste collection sites. We also visited the recycling center, housed in the older, minimum security area. All were impressed by the rigorous sorting and the impressive reductions in waste already accomplished. All were also impressed by the extreme heat outside—even though we were not in the heat of summer, many bodies were wilting in the hot, arid environment!

Kelley Thompson who runs the recycling center for CRCC shared the impressive programming already in place.

Shelley Thompson who runs the recycling center for CRCC shared the impressive operations already in place.

Graph showing CRCC's waste reductions over a four year period. Graphic courtesy of Kelley Thompson.

Graph showing CRCC’s waste reductions over a four year period. Graphic courtesy of Shelley Thompson.

Day two of the gathering was devoted to a marathon meeting. The group participated in a “brain dump,” committing to paper their ideas for sustainability programming. We also heard from our visiting experts. Linda Glasier from Ecology encouraged CRCC not to talk about “waste”. The materials called “waste” are actually commodities, and there are better uses and destinations for those resources than the landfill. Along similar lines, Sergeant Resor from the Correctional Facility at JBLM advised the group to “throw nothing away!”

The results of the brain dump were organized into topics, and the group voted to determine three top priorities for action:

  • Elimination of single-use plastics
  • Zero net waste
  • Education and culture change

With determination and focus, the group crafted action plans for the three initiatives. We emphasized immediate next steps and short term goals. We left the meeting with concrete commitments to further building on the already-excellent sustainability programs at CRCC.

"Sustainability guru" for CRCC, Sam Harris, talks with Linda Glasier from WA Dept. of Ecology and JBLM's Solid Waste & Recycling Program Manager Ron Norton.

“Sustainability guru” for CRCC, Sam Harris, talks with Linda Glasier from WA Dept. of Ecology and JBLM’s Solid Waste & Recycling Program Manager Ron Norton.

Cedar Creek Prairie Conservation Crew 2014

Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

Photos by Jaal Mann, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator

The 2014 prairie restoration crew.

The 2014 prairie restoration crew.

The 200,000 plant pots require a delicate and precise process of weeding.

The 200,000 plant pots require a delicate and precise process of weeding.

This is the second spring for a crew from Cedar Creek Corrections Center dedicated year-round to prairie restoration work. The program links community service to education and training in a range of ecological restoration skills.

The crew participates in every facet of restoration ecology on Puget lowland prairies in Thurston County. Their work is guided by regional land managers from The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources, and The Center for Natural Lands Management, and by SPP’s Conservation Nursery staff. Their activities are highly varied. Spring work centers on the identification and removal of noxious weeds, reducing brush and tree competition in oak savannahs, and identification of prairie sites with a high amount of native biodiversity. In summer and fall their tasks move to seed collection and cleaning as well as providing support for the prescribed burn crews.

Conservation Nursery Coordinator Drissia Ras demonstrates seed sowing techniques.

Conservation Nursery Coordinator Drissia Ras demonstrates seed sowing techniques.

More formal workshops and classroom education occurs while the crew works at the seed nursery managed by the Center for Natural Lands Management and the plant nursery (Shotwell’s Landing) managed by the Sustainability in Prisons Project. At the three seed farms in Thurston County, nearly fifteen acres are cultivated with more than 100 species of seed plants. The offender technicians receive training in plant identification, soil fertility, integrated pest management and a wide range of practical landscape skills. At the plant nursery, they develop adaptive cultivation skills: cultivation techniques that adapt to changing weather and plant needs throughout the growing season. They hone their abilities to monitor plant growth and manage pests to produce the highest quality plants. Adaptive cultivation management is particularly challenging when working with a group of native plants rarely or never grown before.

Crew members prepare early blue violet for plant out at the seed farms.

Crew members prepare early blue violet for plant out at the seed farms.

The plants produced at the nursery go towards the production of seed and habitat enhancement for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. Our goal this year for SPP’s three nursery sites (Shotwell’s, Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Stafford Creek Corrections Center) is 400,000 plants. Outplantings will be a substantial contribution toward creating nectar and larval host plants at sites in Thurston County where the butterfly larvae and adults will be released. Other plants will be used for seed production–with increased availability of seed, even more prairie acreage can be restored. The offender technicians participate in all these efforts; as you can see, they are a primary force in the restoration and habitat enhancement for Puget lowland prairie species for future generations to enjoy.

A crew member scarifies (scratches the seed coat of) American vetch seed prior to sowing; this was done as a comparison study with unscarified seed.

A crew member scarifies (scratches the seed coat of) American vetch seed prior to sowing; this was done as a comparison study with unscarified seed.

 

A crew member covers sown seeds with a gravel cover; a gravel cover reduces moss competition and keeps light seed from floating to the surface.

A crew member covers sown seeds with a gravel cover; a gravel cover reduces moss competition and keeps light seed from floating to the surface.

 

 

SPP’s New Lecture Series Certification

by Tiffany Webb, SPP Lecture Series Coordinator
Students at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) take in the lecture on Mt. Rainier.

Students at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC) take in the lecture on Mt. Rainier. Photo credit: John Dominoski

This past Thursday at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), inmates were recognized for their science and sustainability education achievements! This is a new certification program through the SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series in which inmates are recognized for attending 5, 10, 20 or more lectures.

Tiffany Webb congratulates a lecture series certificate recipient.

Tiffany Webb congratulates a lecture series certificate recipient. Photo credit: John Dominoski

Following the award ceremony, Jeff Antonelis-Lapp, a faculty of The Evergreen State College, presented on the natural history of Mt. Rainier— a topic he is currently researching and writing a book about. The presentation included both the geological history and indigenous peoples’ interactions with the mountain hundreds of years ago. Mr. Antonelis-Lapp also spoke about future hazards associated with Mt. Rainier, particularly lahars (volcanic mudflows). He displayed breathtaking images of the mountain, surrounding areas, archeological sites, and animals that call the range home. Those in attendance received a fact sheet and image of Mt. Rainier to keep.

Tiffany Webb talks with an inmate during the lecture.

Tiffany Webb talks with an inmate before the lecture. Photo credit: John Dominoski

After the lecture, Jeff and I toured SCCC’s sustainability programs. This was my first time at Stafford Creek during this time of year, and I just have to say, their gardens are beautiful! The flowers are blooming in brilliant colors and you can tell the inmates involved are very proud of their work.
The "Lifer" garden at SCCC in full bloom.

The “Lifer” garden at SCCC in full bloom. Photo credit: Tiffany Webb

Prairie Appreciation Day 2014 – Photo Gallery

Photos by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager.

The object of our affections: south Puget Lowlands native prairie, one of the rarest landscapes in the nation, and a beautiful place to be in the springtime.

The object of our affections: Puget Lowlands native prairie, one of the rarest landscapes in the nation, and an especially beautiful place to be in the springtime.

Balsalmroot (Balsamorhiza sp.) broadcasting its beauty in the morning sun.

Balsalmroot (Balsamorhiza sp.) broadcasting its beauty in the morning sun.

SPP's offering for those who would like to be Taylor's checkerspot butterflies: native flowers atop juice boxes.

SPP’s offering for those who would like to emulate Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies: native flowers atop juice boxes.

A visitor enjoys her creation.

A visitor to SPP’s booth enjoys some nectar from her creation.

Federally-listed Endangered golden Indian paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) growing on the prairie. Our Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott participated in their planting many years ago!

Federally-listed Endangered golden Indian paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) growing on the prairie. Our Conservation Nursery Manager Carl Elliott participated in their planting many years ago!

To find out more about Prairie Appreciation Day, see the article: Butterflies, flowers and prairies, oh my! by one of SPP’s conservation nursery coordinators, Bri Morningred.

A Convicts Redemption

By Jamar Glenn, Western Pond Turtle Technician

Who would’ve thought a turtle’s life was so parallel to mine? I was given a great opportunity to work with an endangered species, the western pond turtle (WPT), which was placed here at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC). These animals were infected with an illness called “shell disease.” This disease eats at the plastron, which is the bottom half of the turtle shell. If not treated immediately this disease can kill the animal.

Jamar Glenn studies a turtle after a trip to the vet; both he and SPP's Graduate Research Assistant Fiona Edwards (left) helped build the prison's facility for the turtles.

Jamar Glenn studies a turtle after a trip to the vet; both he and SPP’s Graduate Research Assistant Fiona Edwards (left) helped build prison facility that houses the turtles.

From the beginning of the turtle’s life it’s faced with an obstacle to reach its destination of “freedom.” In the beginning stage the mother lays her eggs along shore, leaving her young to fend for themselves. It’s up to the turtle to follow nature’s designed course to make it to its final destination. To get there the turtle has to go survive a series of threats to finally be free:

  1. Predatory animals who feast on the young hatchlings
  2. Human consumption, commercial trapping for food and pets
  3. Loss of habitat
  4. Rare illness

In this particular case of shell disease, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) run a series of tests and administer intensive treatments with the turtles. Once the turtles are treated, they are then given to CCCC for additional care: we give 20-minute iodine baths, feed them a diverse diet, weigh them, and give additional care to any lesions located on the plastron. We then submit observation notes to the scientist and veterinarians so they can keep records on each individual turtle. The turtles stay under my care for 2-4 months. Once healed, the turtles are released back into the wild to carry on with their turtle lives.

As I released my first turtle, I thought about the turtle’s life and the events it had to endure. Constantly on the run from predators, being captured and taken away from its natural habitat, and riddled with illness, to finally returning home healthy and determined to stay free if she has anything to do with it. She was tagged upon release, so she’ll be under the watchful eye at all times.

As she swam away, I thought about my own life. How I also had to go through my own life struggles ever since I was a youngster. I’ve been alone with no assistance. Predators were my enemy (rival gangs). My illness was my addictions (drugs/alcohol), and my loss of habitat was prison. I too will be tagged and watched by “the eye.”

Turtle technicians Timothy Nuss and  Jamar Glenn on turtle release day.

Turtle technicians Timothy Nuss and Jamar Glenn on turtle release day.

The author releases a turtle.

The author releases a healthy turtle.

I came to prison when I was 16 years old; I’ve been incarcerated now for 17 years. My time has come for me to be released here next year. This program has really enlightened my heart and mind, opening my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity. It’s taught me how to be consistent, responsible, great job ethics, and communication skills. These are tools I didn’t possess in my younger years. I finally can give back to society in my own special kind of way, doing something I never could imagine myself doing. I too will be under the eye, I too will return home healthy, and determined to stay free if I have anything to do with it! Who would’ve thought a turtle’s life was parallel to mine.

For more about the turtle release, see Fiona Edward’s blog on the event.

SPP Conservation Nursery Manual, 4th Edition: The Best Ever!

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

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Prepared by Carl Elliott, Evan Hayduk, Jaal Mann, Brianna Morningred, and Drissia Ras.

I am super impressed by the hot-off-the-press, 4th edition  SPP Conservation Nursery Manual. The 4th edition represents the cumulative knowledge and effort of Carl Elliott, Conservation Nursery Manager, four Graduate Research Assistants, and suggestions and observations of numerous inmate technicians. All have worked together to make the nurseries SPP’s largest, most productive conservation program.

The nursery manual serves primarily as a reference for the inmates who propagate and care for rare and endangered species of prairie plants. For each of 50 species, the manual provides detailed, illustrated instructions for how to prepare, sow, water, fertilize, manage pests, and keep excellent records. With approximately 18 inmate technicians working at three nursery sites growing thousands of plants, such a reference is essential to success.

Beyond that, though, the manual  serves as a field guide, ecological text book, and provides the basics of botany and plant identification. Clearly, it is intended to link inmate technicians’ nursery work to the bigger pictures of ecology and restoration in the region. It is a gorgeous educational resource.

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A typical species overview in the new nursery manual.

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Many of the photos in the species descriptions, especially those of seeds and seedlings, have been taken by SPP’s Graduate Research Assistants.

 

Ideas Worth Spreading: “Turning Keys” in a Washington prison

By Kelli Bush, SPP Program Manager

On March 15, 2014 Monroe Correctional Complex in Monroe, Washington will host a TEDx event. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design; it’s is a non-profit organization committed to sharing “ideas worth spreading” through lectures. TEDx talks are held at locations around the world. The event at Monroe will feature presentations from inmates, corrections staff, and community members. The theme of the event is “Turning Keys,” which will describe how many small and relatively quick changes can result in significant positive outcomes in the corrections system.

Turning Keys 2There will be two talks featuring SPP’s programs. Dr. Carri LeRoy, Co-Director of SPP and Evergreen faculty member, will present on the transformative qualities of SPP programs and Mr. Nick Hacheney will highlight his experience as an inmate managing the vermicomposting program at Monroe Corrections Complex. Mr. Dan Pacholke, Co-Director of SPP and Assistant Secretary of WA Dept. of Corrections, will present on how small changes can alter the future of prisons.

Over the past several weeks SPP staff have assisted with preparation for all three talks. The talks are presented without notes and require lots of practice and polishing along the way.  Mr. Hacheney and another inmate have been preparing a beautiful CD Rom that will include a wealth of information about the vermicomposting program and SPP. The CD will be available to audience members at the presentation. Space to attend the live presentation is extremely limited, but the event will be recorded and available for viewing online—we will be sure to share that video as soon as it is available!

SPP’s TEDx presenters

Dr. Carri LeRoy

Dr. Carri LeRoy (right), faculty at The Evergreen State College and Co-Director of SPP, prepares for a talk at SPP's ten year celebration. Photo by Dani Winder.

Dr. Carri LeRoy (right), faculty at The Evergreen State College and Co-Director of SPP, prepares for a talk at SPP’s ten year celebration. Photo by Dani Winder.

Mr. Dan Pacholke

Dan Pacholke, Assistant Secretary for Washington Dept. of Corrections and SPP Co-Director, talks with Lyle Morse, Director of Correctional Industries, at the SPP National Conference in 2012. Photo by SPP staff.

Dan Pacholke (right), Assistant Secretary for Washington Dept. of Corrections and SPP Co-Director, talks with Lyle Morse, Director of Correctional Industries, at the SPP National Conference in 2012. Photo by SPP staff.

Mr. Nick Hacheney

Nick Hacheney, lead worm farmer at Monroe Correctional Complex, discusses methods with SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush. The worm farm is amazingly clean and sweet-smelling; it only smells of food waste for a few hours a week, right after it has been put into the vermicomposting bins. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Nick Hacheney, lead worm farmer at Monroe Correctional Complex, discusses methods with SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush. The worm farm is amazingly clean and sweet-smelling; it only smells of food waste for a few hours a week, right after the food has been put into the vermicomposting bins. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Worm breeder bins at Monroe Correctional Complex were constructed from re-used mattress parts; the worms live and breed in "Select Comfort"! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Worm breeder bins at Monroe Correctional Complex were constructed from re-used mattress parts; the worms live and breed in “Select Comfort”! Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

The Great Unknowns

By Carl Elliott, SPP Conservation Nursery Manager

An SPP technician uses a hand lens to examine signs of insect damage on a plant grown in the nursery. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

An SPP technician uses a hand lens to examine signs of insect damage on a plant grown in the nursery. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

The cultivation of native plant material in a nursery is fraught with unknowns. Wild-collected and farm-raised seed often have erratic germination requirements and germination percentages from year to year. The year’s weather, seed collection times, and how seeds are cleaned and handled all can affect how the native plants grow.

Unknown conditions

Our wild seed collectors work carefully to reduce variables in timing, handling, and storage. They diligently follow protocols for every step in the process. But often variable summer weather plays a paramount role in defining seed quality, and that’s a factor no one can control. In 2013, spring rains gradually tapered off to bring a bright and warm July and August and provided a large crop of summer seeds; however, in early September rain made late-season seed collection difficult. We shall see in 2014 how the late summer ripeners, members of the Aster family (Solidago and Symphyotrichum species), germinate this spring.

Unknown water needs

Additionally, cultivating summer-dormant plants in containers poses establishment and survival challenges. A number of the plants we cultivate grow actively in the spring, but when the hot weather of summer arrives they go dormant. Leaves die back and small feeder roots slough off. The challenge is to keep the plants alive until planting time in the fall: too much water and the storage roots will rot; too little water and the plants dry up entirely. It is a careful balancing act until the plants wake up with September’s cool weather.

Offender Technicians examining nursery plants to identify insect pests. Photo by Jaal Mann.

Since 2009, SPP’s nurseries have built up a bank of knowledge and proficiency in prairie seed ecology and cultivation. To disseminate the knowledge, we hold seed ecology workshops at each nursery with the full crew of offender technicians. Graduate students present the workshops from a manual on the propagation protocols for each species cultivated. Our shared proficiency has yielded increased plug production at all three of our nurseries.

A workshop on the cultivation of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). Photo by Benj Drummond and Sarah Joy Steele.

A workshop on the cultivation of harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida). Photo by Benj Drummond and Sarah Joy Steele.

Unknown species

The same workshops also introduce plants for which we have no known protocol. The student describes the plant from seed, to active growth, flowering, and back to seed. The group investigates the ecological role for that plant on the prairies referring to primary research from the literature and field. Then, the technicians perform observations and measurements necessary to develop a draft protocol, and craft descriptions, weights and measures of the seed. Finally, SPP involves the technicians in scientific testing of the draft protocol. An example of a protocol under development is for a rare native plant of the Puget lowland prairies, Packera macounii.

Packera macounii. Photo by Keir Morse, Cal photos.

In the last five years, we have fully developed protocols for 37 native prairie species using this approach. In collaboration with our partners at the Center for Natural Lands and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, we are actively researching another 37 species to add to our diverse suite of plants for prairie restoration.