Conservation and Scientific Research

Environmental problems such as climate change and habitat degradation require innovative, responsive science. To connect society with ecological systems, scientists must work across the traditional boundaries of academia and research, and in turn learn from new audiences. In effect, both scientist and newcomer must become ambassadors to each other’s culture – learning the language, exchanging ideas and working toward common goals.

At the Sustainability in Prisons Project, we connect people inside and outside prison walls to create a collaborative, intellectually stimulating environment in which incarcerated men and women play key roles in conservation and advancing scientific knowledge. We encourage teamwork, mutual respect and a stewardship ethic among individuals who typically have little or no access to nature or opportunities in science and sustainability. At the same time, we give scientists a powerful opportunity to expand their work through the fresh perspectives and creative energy of the prison community.

With additional funding and support from visiting scientists, we hope to establish science projects throughout Washington’s prison system and with other “research ambassadors” such as the elderly in assisted living centers. At present, we have multiple programs, each involving inmates, college students and community partners. Click on a program name to learn more about it.

Rearing Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterflies

The Federally-listed endangered species the Taylor's checkerspot butterfly in the custom built green house at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

The Federally-listed endangered species the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly in the custom built green house at Mission Creek Corrections Center. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Prairie Conservation Nurseries

Two members of the SPP conservation nursery crew at Washington Corrections Center for Women work inside one of the hoop houses. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Two members of the SPP conservation nursery crew at Washington Corrections Center for Women work inside one of the hoop houses. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.

Sagebrush Steppe Conservation Nurseries

The contribution of conservation technicians to SPP's sagebrush nursery is greatly valued by program partners. In an effort to ensure program benefits to the incarcerated participants, the program provides training and education in restoration ecology, horticulture, and related natural sciences. Photo by Jeff Clark, BLM.

SPP’s conservation technicians are valued partners in CRCC’s sagebrush nursery. The program provides the incarcerated technicians with training and education in restoration ecology, horticulture, and related natural sciences. Photo by Jeff Clark, BLM.

Western Pond Turtle Care

Sadie-release-turtle

SPP Western Pond Turtle Program Coordinator Sadie Gilliom releases a turtle to a wetland; the turtle received care at Cedar Creek Corrections Center while it recovered from a shell disease. Photo by SPP staff.

Beekeeping Training and Research

An inmate bee keeper at Cedar Creek Corrections Center demonstrates working with the beehive to an SPP tour group. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

An inmate beekeeper at Cedar Creek Corrections Center demonstrates working with a beehive. Photo by Shauna Bittle.

Four of Washington State’s prisons host beekeeping programs, and many more prisons are making plans to add them. Scientifically engaging and ecologically vital, beekeeping can be a profitable skill for a post-prison career, be it in honey and beeswax production or pollinating fruits and vegetables in orchards and farms.

Offenders learn about bee biology and behavior, hive construction and maintenance, beekeeping equipment and commercial business practices. Often located in rural areas, prisons are uniquely positioned to support the pollination of wild and commercial plants while helping scientists study the alarming threat of bee colony collapse.

Rearing Oregon Spotted Frogs

An Oregon spotted frog reared at Cedar Creek Corrections Center leaps into its new habitat. Photo by Cyril Ruoso.

An Oregon spotted frog reared at Cedar Creek Corrections Center makes a leap into its new habitat. Photo by Cyril Ruoso.