Science & Sustainability Lecture Series

In 2016, SPP offers lecture series at five Washington State prisons. The longest-running and best-established are at Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor and Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen. Scientists and community members active in science and sustainability are invited to share their passion and knowledge with inmates at one or both facilities.

Since the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series began, we have presented nearly 200 lectures and workshops to ~2000 incarcerated students, and most students have attended multiple lectures. More than 150 guest scientists and practitioners from more than 70 organizations have shared their expertise in prison: see our Thank You page for recent lecturers.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) guest lecturer Rus Higley of the Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center at Highline College observes a red octopus with a lecture student. Photo by Liliana Caughman.

Lecture series student Ismael Lee and guest lecturer Rus Higley of the Marine Science and Technology (MaST) Center at Highline College observe a red octopus. Photo by Liliana Caughman.

Lectures typically last about 90 minutes.  Attendance ranges from 25-80 inmates, depending on the topic and prison. Lecture topics have included climate change, energy and biofuels, animal track identification, wetlands, environmental justice, green building, a native plant identification workshop, butterflies, innovations in composting, and a workshop on designing a rain garden, just to name a few. The following topics have been requested by inmates who attend the lecture series:

  • green job opportunities / ways to get involved with sustainability efforts
  • environmental justice
  • renewable energy, particularly solar and wind
  • endangered plant and animal species / general information on animals
  • “green” building, construction and architecture
  • climate change
  • mycology
  • marine biology
  • wildlife reserves
  • horticulture
  • native culture and sustainability
  • fishing industry and sustainable practices
  • sustainable food systems and farming
  • beekeeping
  • electric vehicles
  • LEED Certification
  • composting
  • waste water treatment
  • Mt. Rainier
  • environmental justice
  • salmon enhancement and recovery
  • oceanography
  • recycling

Presentations usually take the form of a traditional lecture with a PowerPoint or slideshow, but many incorporate hands-on material such as plant clippings, photographs, and handouts. Students are particularly pleased to see live animals, shells, animal track molds, soundtracks, demonstrations, and more. Interactive materials and workshop-style presentations are particularly popular.

If you are interested in sharing your time and talent with an inmate audience you can check out our online calendar and sign up:

Schedule Yourself for lecture!

To learn more about the lecture series, please contact Liliana Caughman, SPP’s Lecture Series Coordinator, at 360-867-6765 or

Newer lecture series

New in 2016, a lecture series for the conservation technicians of SPP’s sagebrush conservation nursery is also open to the general population of Coyote Ridge Corrections Center; most lectures will focus on restoration of greater sage-grouse habitat, but other science and sustainability topics may also be welcome. Contact Program Manager Kelli Bush if you are interested in participating.

For experienced SPP lecturers, we invite you to present at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, WA, and Monroe Correctional Complex, northeast of Seattle, WA. Our goal is to reach two audiences at each facility, including students in the Intensive Management Unit (IMU). If you are interested, please ask Liliana for more information.

Lecture series students show off their SPP information sheets; we have recently increased our outreach inside Washington State's prisons. Photo by Tiffany Webb.

Lecture series students show off their SPP information sheets; we have recently increased our outreach inside Washington State’s prisons, so that we can make opportunities better known. Photo by Tiffany Webb.

SPP blogs on the Science and Sustainability Lecture Series

Princess Remington and Pele: Royalty in a prison classroom (2016)

Nothing like an octopus in prison! (2016)

It was a Toad-ally Ribbiting Lecture with the Special Offenders Unit (2016)

Lecture Series Expands to Shelton (2016)

From Poop to Employment: Jonathan Jones-Thomas shares his experience returning to prison as a guest lecturer (2015)

Sustainability… in Prison? SPP Coordinator and MES Graduate Candidate, Tiffany Webb, shares her experience of working in prisons (2015)

WCCW Sustainability Workshop (2014)

WCCW’s Science & Sustainability Lecture Series: An Inmate’s Perspective (2013)

Beekeeping Behind Bars (2013)

Lecture Series Update (2012)

WCCW Winter Lecture Series a Success (2011)

Lectures Captivate Washington Corrections Center for Women (2010)