Category Archives: Science

Across cultures and values

SPP Graduate Research Assistant Brittany Gallagher helps an Oregon spotted frog take its first leap into the wild. Photo by Matthew Williams of the New York Times.

By Brittany Gallagher, External Affairs Manager, The Nature Conservancy

When I was looking into graduate schools, I searched for an environmental studies program in which social justice was an integral–and integrated–part. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I was sensitive to inequitable global environmental policy and its detrimental effects to community economic development on both a global and a personal scale. I was interested to fill in my gaps in experience and knowledge with a more thorough understanding of environmental and social justice at home in the US. Though Evergreen’s Graduate Program on the Environment seemed like a good fit, it was the existence of the “Sustainable Prisons Project” (as it was called at the time) on campus that sealed the deal for me.

Thanks to a generous Sara Bilezikian Memorial Fellowship supporting students working for justice in the environmental arena, I was able to begin my time as an MES student even as I moved to Olympia from out of state. I had also emailed SPP staff before I arrived, applying for a job that didn’t exist yet, but thanks to some persistence and a fortuitously timed grant, I became the Education & Evaluations Coordinator for SPP. Alongside my studies, I spent my two years at Evergreen running a pair of lecture series at Stafford Creek Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center for Women. I also worked to evaluate SPP’s various ecological conservation programs. Out of this effort grew my Master’s thesis, examining the social and human effects of participating in SPP’s conservation programs on the inmate technicians who cared for frogs, dogs, butterflies, and prairie plants.

In the years since graduation, I have mentioned SPP in every job interview I’ve had, as well as dropping it into casual conversation on dates, and with strangers sitting next to me on airplanes. We may forget it on our super-green Evergreen campus in the “upper-left” USA, but SPP’s model is fascinating to people. Working with state agencies, prison staff and inmates, academics, and volunteers from the community gave me the skills needed to engage across cultures and value sets to achieve a common purpose. These experiences translate, and they have continued to pay off as I’ve gone on to work in international development and education, and in my current position as External Affairs Manager for The Nature Conservancy in Washington. Now more than ever, cooperation and collaboration with perhaps-unlikely partners for the good of people and the planet is the way to go, and I am proud to have been a piece of SPP’s important and continuing great work.

From SPP to Water for the World

By Joey Burgess, Prairie Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Stafford Creek Corrections Center

Drissia Ras served as Conservation Nursery Coordinator at Stafford Creek Corrections Center from 2012-14 while completing her Master of Environmental Studies degree at Evergreen—the same position I am in now. For Drissia, performing weekly educational workshops and lectures was the most important aspect of her work. She believed that education was crucial to the transformation of this vulnerable population into valuable members of society with a future. She also appreciated the hours spent getting her hands therapeutically dirty while cultivating prairie plants. It was a much-needed break from academic endeavors.

Staff photo from https://friendlywater.net/ABOUT.

During coursework for Drissia’s Master’s degree, she found herself in Yakima County working with farmers, county officials, and other stakeholders on preserving water quality in local watersheds. A representative from a non-profit organization, Friendly Water for the World, was also involved. They invited her to embark on a research project to evaluate the performance of a household water filter, BioSand, for removing arsenic, and this became the subject of her Master’s thesis. She found that the water filter was extremely effective at removing arsenic, a valuable finding for applications of the technology in developing communities. Following graduation, Drissia continued to work with Friendly Water for the World, and became their Administration & Operations Director.

Drissia says her experiences from SPP serve her well in her current work. She appreciated the openness and flexibility that her supervisors provided; it meant she could get the experience she needed. SPP’s management style was perfect for her. She was guided effectively, and empowered to develop project-management and personal skills. Working in a prison with Department of Corrections staff, she expanded her communication skills in ways that now help her establish and maintain relationships with global partners.

Bri Morningred, Jaal Mann, and Drissia Ras, all three prairie conservation nursery coordinators, smile during an SPP celebration in 2013. Photo by SPP staff.

For the future, Drissia plans to continue working with non-profit organizations. Although she recognizes that every organization is distinct and dynamic, she finds SPP especially unique because of the network of partnerships it has formed. She hopes to implement a similar networking strategy into her future work with marginalized populations.

Lecture Series Coordinators 1, 2, 3

By Paula Andrew, Roots of Success Liaison, Training Coordinator, and “Chicken Lady” at Washington Corrections Center for Women.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” ~ Mandy Hale

When I first came to work at the Washington Corrections Center for Women nearly 5 years ago, I came from a background of work in men’s prisons, large and small. Looking back, nothing could have prepared me for the impact I would feel working with female offenders.

My heart went out to the women I encountered on a daily basis. The more I got out of my office and observed, the hungrier I became to try and bring some kind of normalcy to the women that were longing to make the best of their shattered world.

I was delighted when I found out I would be working with an organization called the Sustainability in Prisons Project – bonus for me! A group of caring Evergreen students and staff who want what I want for these women: a little dose of culture from the outside they can embrace and expand their world with…their little tiny corner of their now restricted world needs expanding.

Brittany Gallagher and guest lecturer Anna Thurston walk together to the prison classroom. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Enter Brittany Gallagher, Lecture Coordinator for the Sustainability in Prisons Project. Her job was to plan, organize, and recruit speakers for our monthly Sustainability lecture series. My job was to work with her to put things together on the prison end to make it happen. What a treat it was to work with her! She immediately had the respect of the women in the audience for the lectures. You could tell the women were excited when she talked about things they could do in their own community upon release, and it gave them hope for a sustainable future. Brittany’s quiet smile spread warmth throughout the classroom that was contagious! When Brittany graduated from Evergreen College, like all good graduate students do, I felt like I had lost a good buddy. She was off to the world of exploring her universe, and I was sad to see her go, but excited for her at the same time.

Tiffany Webb talks with lecture series students following a presentation. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

.  .  .  And then along came Tiffany Webb, pretty much the exact opposite of Brittany, with her wide grin, her dancing eyes, and her thirst for sharing her passion for all things sustainable with the world. Tiffany was quick to share her enthusiasm with the students and show them glimpses of life beyond the metal bars. Her stories were laced with leadership, compassion, and strength. Tiffany had a way of involving the students to the point there were actual tears among the lecture-goers when she left. It was a sad day when we had to say goodbye to Tiffany, but waiting in the wings was  .  .  .

Liliana describes her definition of sustainability to lecture series students. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

.  .  .  Liliana Caughman! Dear Liliana quickly became a reliable source of information to the women, one with good listening skills and a patient manner. She continues the Brittany/Tiffany legacy with passion and conviction, all the while spreading the word that these gals can make a difference in the world.

Brittany, Tiffany, Liliana are definitely “someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others”!

Fracking Lecture at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

By Gretchen Graber of Institute for Applied Ecology.

Geologist Duane Horton talks about hydraulic fracking in a prison classroom at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Photo by Dorothy Trainer of Washington Corrections.

The Sustainability Lectures Series at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Washington State hosted the first speaker of the year on February 9th.  The subject of the lecture was an Introduction to Hydraulic Fracking, presented by geologist, Duane Horton. The subject of hydraulic fracking was requested by an inmate last year and we were happy to fill that request. The technology behind fracking was explained, as well as the geology behind what makes fracking possible. The advantages and disadvantages were very well described by Duane, showing why the process is controversial. As usual, many insightful comments were made by the audience members. The Sustainability lecture series is supported by the Sustainability in Prisons Project, relying on cooperative efforts of Washington State Department of Corrections, The Evergreen State College, and the Institute for Applied Ecology.

Summit for Beekeeping in Prisons

By Emily Passarelli, SPP Green Track Coordinator, and Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Education and Outreach Manager

A WSP Beekeeper gets geared up and ready to check on the hives. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

You might think that beekeeping in prisons is a nice idea, but not a big idea: maybe it’s a small, fanciful project that would crop up here or there. Not the case!

In Washington State prisons alone, we already have seven beekeeping programs up and running, and at least three more are in the works. Beekeeping is also in the prison at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and many corrections facilities nationwide, including Georgia, Maryland, IllinoisOregon, Florida, Nebraska, and LA County. Beekeeping programs can also be found in foreign prisons like England, New Zealand, Italy, and France. We’ve  been contacted by prisons interested in beekeeping in Massachusetts, Albania, and Canada!

Three Maryland facilities host honeybee programs to provide training for inmates and boost the local population of pollinators. These hives are at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. Photo by Anthony DePanise of Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Outside of prison, reentry programs, like Sweet Beginnings in Chicago, offer meaningful work experience. The founding executive  director of Sweet Beginnings, Brenda Palms Barber, found that “Fewer than 4% of Sweet Beginnings participants go back into the criminal justice system, compared with the national average of more than 65% and the Illinois average of 55%.” How amazing is that?

Adding to the honeybee focus are countless prison gardens that are accessible to many types of pollinators: beds of flowers and herbs, small-scale vegetable production, and full-scale farms. Corrections facilities typically don’t use any chemical pesticides, so don’t contain the systemic poisons that threaten foraging pollinators; prison plantings are helping to rebuild pollinator habitat by offering a safe food supply. Some prisons add habitat structures for native pollinators, such as mason bee boxes at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (see photo) and a literal-log delivered to the retention pond at Airway Heights Corrections Center.

A home for mason bees, a native pollinator, at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

These programs tap into the many therapeutic benefits of working with nature, which has been widely documented in scientific research. Working with honeybees is particularly soothing; it’s impossible to get good results with bees without calming down. Both inmates and staff sorely need relief from prison stresses, and nature programs can be a place of refuge and recharge.

Also these programs provide a way for inmates to “give back ” to communities and the environment.  In recent decades, pollinators have been dying at a frightening rate, putting our food sources in jeopardy: we depend on pollinators for more than 30% of human food and drink. Generally, nearly all plants with flowers need pollinators; 85% depend on insects for their reproduction! We need healthy hives to conserve and restore bee populations. In 2015, pollinator health was declared a national priority; as a hobby or career, beekeeping is has societal recognition and value. This is no fanciful endeavor—we need bees to thrive so that we can thrive.

A professional beekeeper devoted her summer vacation to teaching about bees in a prison; how cool is that. Photo by Ricky Osborne.

In Washington, we are ramping up to a full-day Summit for Beekeeping in Prisons, to be hosted by Washington Corrections Center for Woman on March 3rd. More than 100 people are registered, and they will come from all 12 Washington prisons, the Evergreen State College, various non-profits and community groups, and multiple beekeeping associations, including the statewide association that oversees beekeeping certification. A major bonus of holding the summit inside a prison is that incarcerated beekeepers will be able to participate. All partners will share best practices, future prison beekeeping plans, safety ideas, community outreach plans, and pollinator health knowledge. We can’t wait to hear what great ideas and thoughts come from our many, fantastic partners!

Each program depends on partnerships among incarcerated individuals, corrections staff, and expert beekeepers. They are united in learning about and tending to something beautiful, complex, and a little bit scary…until it becomes second nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snakes in a prison

Text by Giovanni Galarza and Joslyn Rose Trivett
Photos by Ricky Osborne

Last week, SPP’s Science and Sustainability Lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center brought Giovanni Galarza and two snakes into the classroom. Giovanni is an Evergreen student and herpetology enthusiast, and he gave an exceptionally compelling presentation. Thank you to Ricky Osborne for his powers of photography—seeing these images is almost as good as being there!

Sierra, a Desert Kingsnake, investigates his enclosure before the lecture. Desert Kingsnakes are nonvenomous snakes native to the Southwestern United States, and are immune to the venom of Rattlesnakes which they prey on.

A student takes a closer look at Sierra the Kingsnake.

Giovanni passes around Brandy, a young Corn Snake, for students to touch.

Corn Snakes like Brandy are very docile, making it easy for everyone to get a special, hands-on experience.

Giovanni assists a student with proper handling of the Corn Snake.

For many in the audience, this was their first encounter with live snakes. Everybody seemed to gain a new appreciation for these beautiful and often misunderstood creatures.

 

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.

Climate Science at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center

By Gretchen Graber, Institute for Applied Ecology Contractor

As part of the sustainability lecture series at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, climate scientist Steve Ghan spoke about the most effective techniques to decrease global carbon emissions. Mr. Ghan thanked us for the opportunity to present his research at Coyote Ridge and said, “I got the best questions I’ve ever been asked at a public presentation. All inmates were fully engaged. The staff are professional and enjoy their work. The facility is new and very impressive.”

The lecture series is funded by Bureau of Land Management, (BLM) in Washington D.C. Along with the BLM, the lectures series is a result of partnerships between Sustainability in Prison Project (Washington State Department of Corrections + The Evergreen State College) and Institute for Applied Ecology.

Thank you to Mr. Ghan and all the volunteer presenters for their time and sharing their scientific knowledge with us!

crcc-lecturer

Climate scientist Steve Ghan said of the students at the prison “I got the best questions I’ve ever been asked at a public presentation.” Photo by Gretchen Graber.

We will end the year with a presentation on the advantages and disadvantages of hydraulic fracking.

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.

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!