Category Archives: Conservation Programs

Growing Sagebrush in Central Washington

by Environmental Specialist Dorothy Trainer and SPP Program Manager Kelli Bush

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The hoop house at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center brings nature inside the prison with a new conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush.

With funding support from the Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE), Coyote Ridge Correction Center (CRCC) has launched a new Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nursery Program. SPP is a partnership founded by Washington Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College. The new program also includes collaborators from Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Washington Native Plant Society (WNP), Washington State University Tri-Cities (WSU TC), and IAE.

Plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber works with an inmate technician filling tray for seed sewing. Photo by CRCC staff.

Plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber works with an inmate technician filling tray for seed sewing. Photo by CRCC staff.

This spring inmates started 20,000 sage brush plants at CRCC. As an essential component of the program, hands on training and lectures are provided for inmates and staff by plant ecologist and horticulture educator Gretchen Grabber of WNP and WSU TC. The primary goal of this project is to provide sagebrush for restoration of greater sage grouse habitat. Fifty percent of the sagebrush steppe habitat in the United States has been lost to large scale fires, conversion to other land uses, invasive cheat grass, and noxious weeds. Sagebrush habitat provides important shelter and food for the greater sage grouse and many other species. All of the sagebrush plants grown at CRCC will be planted on BLM land for restoration in the Palisades Flat Fire Project area near Wenatchee, Washington.

Facility staff and Superintendent Uttecht eagerly accepted the opportunity to host this new program with very short notice, resulting in a busy spring and summer at CRCC. It was impressive how quickly they built a hoop house, hired an inmate crew, prepared containers for planting, and planted sagebrush seeds.

This is what we want! A seedling sagebrush shows its beauty in the conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush

This is what we want! A seedling sagebrush shows its beauty in the conservation nursery. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Educational lectures and workshops and plant care will continue into fall. Inmate crews, staff, and Gretchen Grabber will assist BLM in planting sagebrush late fall 2015/early winter 2016.

The Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nursery program at CRCC is part of a multi-state restoration program including nurseries located in Oregon and Idaho corrections centers. The Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) is a founding partner of SPP-Oregon, and they have provided the grant funding and training materials making this program possible.

Here, CRCC’s superintendent, CRCC staff, Getchen Grabber, and representatives from IAE, DOC headquarters, and SPP meet to hash out critical details that will make the program a success. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Here, CRCC’s superintendent, CRCC staff, Getchen Grabber, and representatives from IAE, DOC headquarters, and SPP meet to hash out details critical to the program’s success. Photo by Kelli Bush.

Partners involved in the nursery recently met at CRCC to discuss program status. It was a productive meeting focused on planning for the rest of this season and dreaming about additions for next year. Thank you to each and every collaborator involved and we look forward to watching this program grow! Special thanks to Stacy Moore with IAE for bringing this opportunity to CRCC.

 

 

 

 

 

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program Releases Another Butterfly

by Liz Louie, SPP Butterfly Technician
Introduction by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Butterfly Program Coordinator

Butterfly technician Elizabeth Louie worked with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) for more than two years.  She is now one of the few butterfly husbandry experts in the world.  During her time at Mission Creek she made many significant contributions to the program.  She streamlined data collection procedures and created an immaculately organized system for tracking daily activities and progress.  She always found creative solutions to problems when resources and communication with outside expertise was limited.  Lastly, as a senior butterfly technician she ensured high quality butterfly care and effectively trained and inspired incoming technicians.  The program will benefit from her good work for years to come.  Liz will be missed, but we are so happy for her and wish her the best in all that she pursues in life.

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Liz Louie records data on pupae and butterfly weights.

The following is a blog written by Elizabeth Louie, now out of prison in work release:

It has been 26 months and three seasons, with two Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) bosses and three Department of Corrections (DOC) bosses, releasing approximately 8,000 caterpillars and 250 butterflies to the wild. I have come to the end of an amazing journey. As I leave Mission Creek and the TCB program, I want to say THANK YOU for the experience.

It seems appropriate that I’m leaving just as the caterpillars are going into diapause. All the hard work caring for larvae, pupae and eclosing butterflies, conducting breeding and collecting eggs is now done. It’s now a transition period. A period of rest before the cycle begins again, similar to the stage I’m in now. Work release, a time of transition and preparation for my final release into the community.

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection.  Photo by Judith Gerren

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection. Photo by Judith Gerren

A writer from Sierra Magazine recently asked what I thought about the irony of having a butterfly program in prison; the contrast between the delicate, fragile butterfly and the “harshness” of prison life. For me, butterflies are very resilient animals. Their primary habitat was an artillery range, the aftermath of fire and destruction. Metaphorically, the butterfly symbolizes re-birth, new life and beginnings. So with that said, Mission Creek (prison) makes a lot of sense for a surrogate habitat.

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae.  We keep them in bins with paper bags ("mima mounds") to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae. We keep them in bins with paper bags (“mima mounds”) to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

In fact, there are other parallels between the butterflies and prison life. The larvae will sometimes go into second diapause (D2) if they feel conditions are not right. Maybe there’s not enough food, so the larvae will go back to sleep. Similar to D2 larvae, women come in and out of prison. They may not have gotten what they needed from prison the first time, or they lack outside support to help them be successful. But for me personally, at my age, its good to know that the final stage is a butterfly. It means the most beautiful stage of my life is yet to come. All the other stages have been in preparation for that final one.

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Liz Louie shows inmate Samantha Turner how to remove a new pupae from a “mima mound”. This is a very delicate process.

This will be a time in my life that I won’t soon forget. The people I’ve met and the women I’ve worked with, I take away something from each of them. I’ve learned a lot about myself, both the good, and the things I need to change. I have a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. I walk away a stronger person and look forward to whatever life holds.

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Team building for native violets at Washington Corrections Center

Written June 11, 2015
Joey Burgess, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant
All photos by Joey Burgess

A horticulture student in the Skill Builders Unit at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) tends to native violets in the prison's new seed beds.

A horticulture student in the Skill Builders Unit at Washington Corrections Center (WCC) tends to native violets in the prison’s new seed beds.

My first two months working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) was characterized by collaboration and progression, both of which I consider keystone concepts for sustainability. At Washington Corrections Center, a men’s prison near Shelton, WA, we partner with Centralia College, Washington State Department of Corrections (WDOC) staff, and inmates with cognitive impairments to raise Viola adunca (early blue violets) for seed. The project holds novelties for everyone involved and it has flourished thanks to flexibility and open minds.

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A horticulture student carries a rack of early blue violets that are ready to be planted.

Because of precautionary protocols, making infrastructure changes within the walls of a correction facility is not a speedy process. However SPP, WDOC, & Centralia College have truly united and the effect has been excellent. After only three months the violets are flowering, and we have already started harvesting seed. Our success is not limited to the health of the violets; it is also evident in the mental health and progression of the inmates.

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Another member of the class-and-crew hand waters violets.

An interest in horticulture is an inmate’s ticket to the project, but dedication keeps him there. Whether it’s planting, watering, cultivating, or harvesting, we focus on one skill at a time. We encourage each person to find a connection to the work. This holistic approach has created an atmosphere of personal and community development. Inmates are brimming with questions about the broad scheme of SPP, and how they can find similar work upon release. Also, it has been surprisingly common for WDOC officers and administrators who are not involved in the project to ask how they can help, even going out of their way to arrange for our 9,000+ violets to be watered over hot weekends.

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SPP partners weed and care for the violets as a team.

Although in its infancy, the Viola adunca project has created an unlikely community. The original goals were to raise violets for seed and provide inmates with valuable skills. However the project has become a platform for more than that: proof that under a common goal, even stark boundaries can be blurred.

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One of the horticulture students discovered a Pacific chorus frog among the violets. Looks like the SPP logo!

 

Flight of the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies

By Christina Stalnaker, SPP Graduate Research Assistant and Roots of Success Coordinator

It was a smaller crowd than usual: two males fluttered around a single female. The lighting was ideal and temperature at just the right degree for a successful pairing. As these butterflies moved in their miniature habitat, two inmate technicians quietly watched to verify if they had a fruitful engagement. We had just entered the greenhouse of the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) captive rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women on an early spring morning.

A technician waters flowers that will be placed in TCB habitats for captive rearing. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

A technician waters flowers that will be placed in TCB habitats for captive rearing. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

These butterflies were the first of their cohort to eclose, marking the beginning of TCB flight season. Eclosure is one of the final stages of a Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly’s life cycle—it occurs when the butterfly emerges from its cocoon. When the remaining butterflies join them in flight, the technicians will place two females and up to seven males in an insect habitat. Lindsey Hamilton, SPP’s TCB program coordinator, later explained to me that placing so many in the habitat at once ignites the male’s competitive behavior. In the wild, TCB males can be found next to a female pupa, waiting for her to eclose.

Having just emerged from its cocoon, a Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly patiently waits to feed on honey and take flight for the first time. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Having just eclosed (emerged from its cocoon), a Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly patiently waits to feed on honey water and take flight for the first time. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

The technicians had been waiting for us to arrive at the prison’s greenhouse to “process” two more butterflies that had just completed eclosion. The word “process” is far too ordinary to describe this next step in caring for these beautiful, endangered butterflies. Upon emergence, the butterflies patiently wait in their tiny container for at least 24 hours before feeding on honey water and taking flight. I had never handled butterflies before and was pretty nervous. Elizabeth Louie, TCB inmate technician, proudly demonstrated how to handle and process the delicate insects. After she showed me exactly what to do from start to finish, I went on to process the second TCB on my own.

Name?, TCB technician, shows Christina how to "process" an eclosed butterfly. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton,

Elizabeth Louie, TCB inmate technician, shows Christina Stalnaker how to “process” an eclosed butterfly. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

First, we recorded the ID number and color code. Next, we removed the mesh caging and the TCB from its insect cup, gently pinch its wings, and closely examined the butterfly to determine if it is a male or female. Mine was female; I could tell by looking at the tip of the abdomen. Females have a pointed tip at the end of their abdomen, whereas males’ are more rounded. After placing her on the balance, we recorded her weight. Swirling the end of a q-tip in the honey water and teasing her proboscis with a paperclip, I set her down and watched as she tasted her first drops of honey as a butterfly.

A Taylor's Checkerspot Butterfly enjoys her first taste of honey water. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

A Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly enjoys her first taste of honey water. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton.

Once captive rearing is complete and the females finish laying their eggs, the butterflies are released to various South Sound Prairies, like the Glacial Heritage Preserve (photographed below). Here they will live the remainder of their lives, and we hope that they continue to mate and lay eggs in their native habitat to bolster populations directly.

Home of the mysterious Mima Mounds and a critical habitat for Taylor's Checkerspot Butterflies, Glacial Heritage Preserve is managed by many of our partners to ensure they continued survival of these beautiful butterflies. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Home of the mysterious Mima Mounds and a critical habitat for Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies, Glacial Heritage Preserve is intensively managed by our partners to ensure the continued survival of these beautiful butterflies. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Yellow and red flags mark areas of Glacial Heritage Preserve with prairie plants cultivated to enhance TCB habitat. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Yellow and red flags mark areas of Glacial Heritage Preserve with prairie plants cultivated to enhance TCB habitat. Photo by Christina Stalnaker.

Impact!

By Samantha Turner,  Butterfly Technician at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

I have had a negative impact on many things throughout my life.  As much as I hate to bring to light all my defects, I would have to say that I have had more negative than positive influences in the past.

I find myself today actively changing this pattern.  I strive to do what is right.  Being a part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s (SPP) Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program has given me a huge opportunity to make an impact in a majorly positive way.  I’m learning so much in this program and all the while I find my life is comparable to the cycle of these butterflies’ lives.

I’m shedding my old skin to morph into a new person.

Technician Samantha Turner with a post-diapause larvae bin. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Technician Samantha Turner works with a postdiapause larvae bin. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Samantha is diligently taking notes in order to track each individual butterfly through it's transformation.  Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

Samantha is diligently taking notes in order to track each individual butterfly through its transformation. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

This program is fighting to keep the Taylor’s checkerspot alive.  Along with saving their lives, I am fighting to save mine.  So, the SPP program is majorly impacting not only the butterflies’ lives, but my life, and preserving a fighting chance at a future for both of us.

Checkerspot larvae are social insects.  They often follow each other around and eat together.  Photo by inmate technician

Checkerspot larvae are social insects. They often follow each other around and eat together. Photo by inmate technician

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women butterfly technicians. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women butterfly technicians posed by a garden where they grow food for the caterpillars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Thank you for this program and I look forward to all the possibilities.

New Turtle & Frog Technicians

We recently hired two new inmate technicians that bring exciting new skills to the Frog and Turtle Program! Inmate technician Anglemyer is an aspiring journalist and inmate technician Boysen has skills in plumbing and mechanics. Both technicians have already proven to be great assets to the frog and turtle program by improving the frog and turtle tank structures. Under their care, the Oregon spotted frog tadpoles are strong and healthy and the western pond turtles are doing great!

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility.  Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Anglemyer and Boysen in the turtle facility. Photo Credit: Sadie Gilliom

Here is an excerpt from Anglemyer’s cover letter that expresses his dedication to the frog and turtle program:

Seeking Turtles

Goals

With his interest in journalism, we hope to hear more about his experience with the frogs and turtles in the future! We are excited to see what both Anglemyer and Boysen continue to bring to the program!

Beds for Violets at Washington Corrections Center: Building SPP’s newest conservation nursery!

By Conrad Ely
SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Shotwell’s Landing

Tuesday March 24, a Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) nursery crew—Carl Elliott, Ricky Johnson & I—set out for Shelton to meet with Don Carlstad, the Facilities Manager at the Washington Correction Center (WCC). We were also joined by Tom Urvina and Scott Shankland of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”; they were volunteering their time to help our labor-strapped crew undertake this beast-of-a-job. The project looked simple on paper: build twenty-eight garden beds (32’ x 4’ x 1’) in three days. However, Carl—the brains of the operation (and SPP’s Conservation Nursery Manager)—wisely left off the schematic that the beds would be sitting atop (within?) an area that inmates call “the swamp”. But that information wouldn’t become relevant until day two.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC)) that would host the Viola beds.

The site at Washington Correction Center (WCC) that would host the Viola beds.

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds; looked so simple on paper!

The site plan for the 28 nursery beds looked so simple on paper!

When we arrived on location, the field we were set to build on was vast and vacant, a canvas for our carpentry. After a careful examination of our blueprints, the tools were distributed and construction began. We worked slowly and deliberately at first. Our measurements were precise and each screw was carefully placed. The first few boxes involved all hands on deck as we fleshed out the most logical and efficient methods. Once we completed the fourth bed, half of the team split off to help fill in the soil as it was ferried over by the tractor load driven by Don Carlstad. By the end of day one, we had eight beds completed.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Scott and Tom build one of the first beds.

Wednesday we woke to a soggy March morning on the Olympic Peninsula. Luckily we brought reinforcements: Dennis Aubrey, Kenney Burke, and Josiah Falco of the JBLM “Wounded Warriors” program and Allie Denzler of SPP. They helped us battle the elements. Indeed, our field of dreams had turned to a wetland of inconvenience overnight. The shin-deep mud puddles were an inopportune foundation for our garden beds and the rain seemed to double the weight of our lumber as it became saturated, but we persevered nonetheless. With our finely-honed carpentry skills, we pushed forward like athletes on the gridiron, unshaken by any physical distraction. We focused solely on each repetition, working as a team to achieve something none of us could have done alone. And despite the weather, we easily doubled our output from the day before.

We worked in puddles on day two.

The team worked in puddles on day two.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

Even in the downpour, the team kept up a high level of carpentry excellence.

On day three we were welcomed back to WCC by the glorious sunshine and beauty of springtime in Western Washington. After working in slow motion day one, as we got acquainted with the process, and running the gauntlet day two to build twice as fast in the midst of a monsoon, day three was as satisfying a final day as we could ask for! Not only were we done with time to spare, but befitting the spring weather, we ended with more beds than we had planned: a bonus 29th box!

A tractor fills the final bed with soil.

A tractor dumps soil into the last bed.

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The final product: 29 beds are ready for violet plants!

The process of turning a pile of fresh lumber and a box of screws into an opportunity for environmental education and restoration is not unlike the metamorphosis a caterpillar undergoes as it becomes a butterfly. With thanks to the JBLM “Wounded Warriors”, and help from our partnership with WDOC, we hope this new program will also take flight and promote sustainability at WCC for years to come!

Washington State Monarchs Going the Distance

Just like many of us head south to escape the cold dark winters of the Northwest, so do butterflies! The Pacific Northwest Monarch butterfly population is thought to overwinter in coastal California and possibly central Mexico. This species is sensitive to fir tree and milkweed declines, and past research suggests that our butterflies are having difficulty making it to their ultimate destination each winter. The current extent of the Washington population’s migration and wintering area is largely unknown.

The Santa Cruz California Monarch Aggregation.  Two butterflies released just 4 days apart in August from Yakima, Washington traveled 675 miles (at least) to this same overwintering site!

Dr. David James, an associate professor at Washington State University (WSU) is studying this migration to learn more. In collaboration with the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) in Walla Walla, volunteers and inmates raise thousands of Monarch butterflies to be tagged and released every fall. Each butterfly carries a small, light-weight sticker showing an ID number and an email address. After release, they wait until a stranger in the south makes contact to tell them where their butterflies have landed.


Washington State Penitentiary Monarch Butterfly Rearing 2012

 

David James explaining monarch biology to inmates at WSP.

On November 22nd an observer counting Monarchs in Goleta, California found a butterfly that was tagged at WSP. Goleta is 825 straight line miles from Walla Walla! This is the longest travel distance recorded for a Washington Monarch making this the most important re-sighting to date! Previous recoveries proved migration only as far south as San Francisco.

One of the 50 monarchs released from Yakima in October.

This is a great example of how the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) model of collaborative partnerships with prisons allows multiple partners to participate in conservation efforts that reach far beyond Washington State. SPP staff at The Evergreen State College would like to congratulate WSU and WSP on this great achievement! We look forward to learning more about where our Monarchs travel in the coming years. To track the Monarch project yourself, follow their Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/MonarchButterfliesInThePacificNorthwest

Monarch wanted from fb

The Butterflies Get Their Own Computer

By SPP Taylor’s checkerspot program coordinator Lindsey Hamilton

At Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) four inmate technicians raise Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies as a contribution to the recovery of this prairie species. Following the direction of the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon, they have been successfully rearing and breeding these butterflies for three years. This butterfly was federally listed in October of 2013, which means that anyone working with this species is now held to high accountability and rigorous reporting. The technicians at MCCCW have always been successful at collecting detailed data on all phases of butterfly husbandry.

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The Oregon Zoo recently created an Access database that will store all rearing and breeding information for both facilities in one place. This database will increase the quality of all data collected and provide for efficient access for tracking trends and bi-annual reporting.

Butterfly Computer
This has created a new opportunity for the technicians at MCCCW to learn the skill of data entry and management using Access. A computer containing this database was set up in a common living area within the facility last fall, and as simple as this sounds, it represents a major accomplishment for a prison environment! The inmate technicians will now be able to directly enter their data from the program . The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program coordinator for SPP, Lindsey Hamilton, will then extract the data via USB and send it to the Oregon Zoo. Butterfly rearing is seasonal work, and the technicians usually have little to do in the off season. With the 2 years of back logged data that needs to be entered, the technicians will stay busy this winter when our caterpillars are sleeping.

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.