Category Archives: Ecological Research

Inspiring Students

By SPP Director for Evergreen, Dr. Carri LeRoy

During an MES fieldtrip to the Elwha River, Carri (purple raincoat), talked with MES students and adjunct faculty Sarah Hamman (blue raincoat, also an SPP partner!). Photo by Shauna Bittle.

While reading a draft of the newsletter this quarter, I was overwhelmed by memories of SPP students past, inspired by SPP students present, and could barely contain my excitement about meeting the SPP students of the future! One of the great benefits of being the Co-Director on the Evergreen side of the SPP partnership (SPP is a partnership between The Evergreen State College and the Washington Department of Corrections) is interacting with our phenomenal undergraduate and graduate students.

During the first national meeting of SPP programs in 2012, Evan Hayduk and Carri LeRoy talk during a tour of Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

I was able to cultivate particularly strong relationships with SPP graduate students while I spent three years as a faculty member in Evergreen’s Graduate Program on the Environment (MES) and had the distinct pleasure of mentoring sixteen thesis students. Of these students, half of them also worked as SPP Graduate Research Assistants, and four of them did their thesis projects on SPP. It was through many months of collaborative learning about their thesis research that I really got to know these students and their strengths and passions. They are inspiring individuals! Many of them enrolled in the MES program and moved across the country with the hope of being able to work for SPP. The MES program’s interdisciplinary curriculum and opportunities to do thesis projects that blend natural and social sciences make it an ideal partner for SPP. We like to think of SPP as a fantastic example of the three pillars of sustainability in action (environmental stewardship, economic cost saving, and social justice), so it is easy to choose aspects of the program to study from many angles. We are grateful for the dedication, enthusiasm, and time SPP Graduate Research Assistants put into their work for SPP. Their work is clearly appreciated by SPP staff, WA Corrections  employees, incarcerated students, their peers, and outside agencies (as evidenced by the articles written in this issue of our newsletter). Our students have gone on to pursue PhDs and do excellent work after graduation for federal, state, and non-profit agencies. Evergreen students are truly a force to be reckoned with, and our SPP graduates are an elite group! I thank all of you (past, present, and future) for your contributions to SPP!

Enthusiasm, grace, and patience

By Carl Elliott, Kelli Bush, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP-Evergreen Managers

Fawn brought Princess Remington, a turkey vulture, to the lecture series at Stafford Creek Corrections Center, and held the class’ full attention for a solid hour (more about her presentation here). Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Fawn Harris fills her days to overflowing, and navigates her many activities with grace and patience. She is a Master of Environmental Studies student, employee and volunteer with West Sound Wildlife, regularly active in her cultural community and environmental movement, and she coordinates SPP’s prairie conservation nursery program at Washington Corrections Center—a relatively new program with unusual and complex demands.

Fawn is the first member of her family to attend college. She is passionate about education, the environment, and building community. She successfully juggles the many elements of her life.

Fawn works on plant pressings with a student at Washington Corrections Center. Photo by Carl Elliott.

At Washington Corrections Center, she works and studies with men who are cognitively disabled, and finds ways to make science and environmental education accessible and relevant to them. Partnering with this population is a new challenge for SPP, and Fawn has been central to the program’s success thus far. She has shown patience and perseverance with everyone involved.

Above all, Fawn is a wonderful communicator. She knows how to captivate a large audience, describing the habits of birds-of-prey in a way that makes a lasting impression. She will take the time with a student to explain and discuss complex topics until the student feels satisfied. She also stands up for herself, and says what she needs, so that she is both safe and effective in her work. We are so impressed by Fawn and so happy to be working with her!

Fawn Harris and Sadie Gilliom collect violet seeds at Washington Corrections Center. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

 

 

The Bridge to Evergreen

by Kristina Faires, SPP Program Enhancement Coordinator

The window I sit near and write this is open and expansive. It looks out to The Evergreen State College’s Red Square. Even on this stormy day, surrounded by Western Hemlock, Douglas Fir and many beautiful Maples, I take in my view and realize how different my world is from what it was. For 40 months I was incarcerated at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair, WA. The last year of my sentence I became involved with Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP), a partnership founded by The Evergreen State College & WA State Department of Corrections. SPP brings science and nature into the prisons.  It allows inmates to become involved with programs that focus on science and sustainability.

Butterfly technicians prepare materials for the spring wake up, when the caterpillars emerge from dormancy; Kristina is second from the left. Photo by Seth Dorman.

For a year I worked as a Butterfly Technician and research assistant with the endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. I cannot begin to express what a humbling experience it was. To be able to go from zero background in science, and then suddenly be immersed in an environment where I was learning new skills and collecting data as well as breeding an endangered species is crazy. For an organization to take a genuine interest in an inmate and say, “I believe in you” is amazing. They put faith in me regardless of my past choices and gave me an opportunity to grow and change along with the very thing I had been entrusted to care for. In time, not only did my competency and skill sharpen, my self-esteem grew.

Later in the season, Kristina hand feeds an adult butterfly. Photo by Seth Dorman.

My time in the butterfly program was such a rewarding and fulfilling experience. It helped me gain some much needed perspective about my life and what I wanted it to look like. It also ignited in me a passion to learn again. I ended up giving up my work release so I could stay and receive my certificate as a Butterfly Technician from SPP. I figured what a great bridge SPP has fostered for me: I already have this working relationship with SPP and The Evergreen State College. How perfect would it be to start my new life over with this network and support system already in place?  I applied for fall quarter at Evergreen and was accepted. Today I am a full-time student, with a focus on Environmental Science, and a part-time employee at SPP.

Transitioning from prison to college has been overwhelming at times. To go from an austere and rigid environment to a progressive liberal arts college where I call the shots, I choose my schedule, is liberating.  To have regained my voice and to actually be heard feels good. When I look back and reflect on the person I was and compare to who I am today, I am amazed at my growth. I feel like becoming involved with SPP and butterfly program was the catalyst for my change. Just as the butterfly goes through a time of metamorphosis, I too experienced transformation. Without it, it is hard to say what my world would be today.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly nectars on a harsh paintbrush, one of the native plants that the species prefers. Photo by a butterfly technician.

Larch Corrections Center – An Upcoming Beekeeper’s Paradise

SPP had another fantastic meeting with Larch Corrections Center. We went to the prison to talk about beekeeping and were met with enthusiasm for this new educational program.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom meets with the turtle technicians. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Larch has a turtle program that has been wildly successful. In partnership with the Oregon Zoo, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others, endangered Western Pond Turtles with a shell disease came to Larch for rest and recuperation. The technicians did such a wonderful job caring for the turtles that they were all released back into the wild earlier this season! While they await the arrival of more turtles this fall, the technicians are pursuing a new science education opportunity- beekeeping. With support from SPP and beekeeping partners, Larch Corrections Center plans to offer an apprentice level beekeeping certification class sometime this fall.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

Sadie Gilliom, Emily Passarelli, and CC2 Shawn Piliponis discuss beekeeping at Larch. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

This course will not only educate technicians to be state certified beekeepers, but may also provide opportunities to assist in hive research. In addition, with the help of Classification Counselor 2 Shawn Piliponis, technicians are piloting a program to build bee hives out of recycled, untreated pallet wood. They eventually want to donate the bee boxes to local schools and organizations to support pollinator recovery. Programs like these can reduce idleness among incarcerated individuals. Reduced idleness leads to reduced violence and infractions.

While there aren’t any bees at the prison yet, Stafford Creek Corrections Center is generously donating one of their hives so Larch can get started this August. Next season we aim to have six hives of two different hive types in operation.

We are confident this collaborative program will be a great success with education at the center of the endeavor!

 

Prairie seeds close up

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

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

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

Gaillardia-aristata-(3)

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

Erigeron-speciosus-(2)

Erigeron speciosus also has a daisy-like flower…

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

Microseris-laciniata-(3)

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

Lomatium-utriculatum-(3)

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

Lomatium-nudicaule-(3)

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

Lomatium-triternatum-(3)

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

Festuca-romerii-(2)

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

Ranunculus-occidentalis

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

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

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Here is Technician Miles working with the picture microscope.

 

A Successful Turtle Release

by Sadie Gilliom, Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turtle ready for release! Photo by SPP manager Kelli Bush

Turtle ready for release! Photo by Kelli Bush.

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

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

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

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

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

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager

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

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

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

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Program coordinator Conrad Ely leads discussion of the scientific method.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

in-the-garden

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

 

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.

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.