SPP Lecture Series Update

SPP Lecture Series Update

by Graduate Research Associate Brittany Gallagher, Education & Evaluations Coordinator

The SPP Science and Sustainability Lecture Series has been up and running at Stafford Creek Corrections Center and Washington Corrections Center for Women since 2009.  Every month, inmates at each facility have the option to attend a lecture given by a community-based scientist, university researcher, organic farmer, or other teacher well-versed in one or more topics related to science, the outdoors, and environmental sustainability.

Thanks to the cooperation and enthusiasm of staff at Stafford Creek and WCCW, up to 50 inmates are able to attend each presentation, which may take the form of lecture, multimedia presentation, or workshop.  Recent lecturers and topics have included:

Anna Thurston of Advanced Botanical Resources, Inc. lectures to a group at WCCW.

Anna Thurston of Advanced Botanical Resources, Inc. lectures to a group at WCCW.

Anna Thurston shares plant samples with her audience during a plant identification workshop.

Inmates who attend lectures are asked to complete surveys designed to measure changes in environmental knowledge and attitudes, as Lecture & Evaluations Intern Jaal Mann discussed in his blog post this spring.  Many inmates make it a priority to attend the lecture series, with one writing recently “Thank you for providing these lectures.  I look forward to them every month.”  Lectures often pique the interest of several inmates each month, who use the surveys to ask for more information on the day’s topic.  Others take more general lessons away, with one inmate noting “I learned that I should look outside at more things, and that things I’ve never thought about are interesting.”

Surveys also give inmates an opportunity to request lecture topics.  Recently requested topics include green building, aquaponics, urban farming, Mt. Rainier, geothermal systems, mammals, restoring biodiversity and a host of others.

SPP is always recruiting lecturers willing to visit a prison and share their time and knowledge with an inmate audience.  If you or someone you know would like to lecture as part of SPP’s Science and Sustainability Series, please contact Brittany Gallagher at galbri23@evergreen.edu or 360-867-6765 for more information.

SPP Oregon Spotted Frog Program Transitions

SPP Oregon Spotted Frog Program Transitions

By SPP Project Manager Kelli Bush

The SPP Oregon spotted frog program at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (CCCC) has recently undergone a few changes. The continued success of this and other SPP programs is owed to a collaborative effort. Department of Corrections (DOC) staff members are an essential part of the team working to rear frogs at the prison. Since 2009, Classification Counselor Marko Anderson has been the staff person supervising the daily work of the inmate technicians, communicating project needs, and coordinating access for SPP staff, project biologists, and other visitors. Marko has been dedicated and hard-working. He took on the duties of the program in addition to his work load as a Classification Counselor. It is with mixed emotions that we bid Marko farewell. He has accepted a promotion at Washington Correction Center in Shelton. We are very happy he has been promoted, but he will be missed. We are grateful to have had such a devoted person working to ensure success of the program.

On the bright side, we are pleased to announce that Classification Counselor Vicki Briggs has volunteered to take on the OSF program duties at CCCC. Over the past several years Vicki has been regularly serving as the back-up supervisor for the program during times when Marko was on leave. She has always been a tremendous help, including when we were dealing with mortalities this season. Vicki also leads the beekeeping program at CCCC. We are so pleased to continue the program with her help.

A few months ago we also welcomed a new inmate frog technician to the program. Mr. Hensen has been hardworking and very eager to learn all things Oregon spotted frog. He plans to study marine biology when he is released. The program’s other frog technician, Mr. Davis, remains on the team. He has done an excellent job using his experience to help train Mr. Hensen. It is shaping up to be another successful season!

Thank you Marko!

Celebrating a Successful Inaugural Season for the Butterfly Program at Mission Creek

Celebrating a Successful Inaugural Season for the Butterfly Program at Mission Creek

by Graduate Research Associate Dennis Aubrey

The Sustainability in Prisons Project’s newest program, the rearing of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women, has just concluded its first season. A second generation of more than 3500 caterpillars has now safely gone into diapause, and the effort can officially be considered a complete success. Some of the season’s highlights include:

More than 700 Taylor’s checkerspots were released onto South Puget Sound prairies. Six hundred of these were released as post-diapause caterpillars in early March, placed one at a time on available host plants. Another 101 were released as adults, following breeding and oviposition. These were placed carefully on nectar flowers or, if they chose to, simply allowed to flutter off across the prairie.

Breeding activities were also highly successful. Males and females were crossed according to specific lineage pairings designated by staff at the Oregon Zoo to preserve genetic diversity. Seventy-two mating introductions were made, with 32 of these resulting in a successful pairing. From these, 3,515 eggs were laid. 3,395 of these successfully developed into healthy caterpillars and entered diapause, a survivorship of 96.6%.

A novel research project was carried out at the facility, examining host plant choice by female checkerspots. This work is showing that they prefer to lay eggs on two native plants, harsh paintbrush and Washington-endangered golden paintbrush, over the exotic but well-documented host English plantain. This finding has the potential to alter restoration practices for the butterfly and possibly unite the recovery efforts for both it and the golden paintbrush.

Currently, in addition to caring for the 3,624 caterpillars in diapause at the facility, inmate technicians are working on end-of-season reporting, putting in host plant gardens around the greenhouse and tending the plants, and creating a butterfly coloring book for children visitors to the prison. Their work with the butterflies this season has been exemplary in every way, and the overwhelming success of the project’s first year is thanks to their tireless and meticulous work.

Undergraduate intern Caitlin Fate releases a Taylor's checkerspot on Scatter Creek Prairie, Spring 2012. Photo by D.Aubrey.

A Taylor's checkerspot lays eggs on a Golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), a state-endangered plant.

To support the Taylor’s checkerspot program and others like it, click here to donate to SPP.

Workshops address needs to help advance SPP goals

Workshops address needs to help advance SPP goals

By Julie Vanneste, Sustainability Coordinator, Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC)

For two days last week Department of Corrections staff, consultants, representatives from fellow state agencies and the National Institute of Corrections met to work on the sustainability goals of the Washington DOC. From these meetings the Department is better equipped to implement sustainable purchasing policies and training for staff and offenders.

Washington DOC was one of three states to be awarded a Technical Assistance Grant by the National Institute of Corrections toward Greening Corrections.  The award provided funds to recruit subject matter experts to convene for two days of workshops to address an area where the stated identified a need for assistance.

Washington was the first state to hold its workshops.  We chose to focus on greening our procurement process and creating a sustainability curriculum to be delivered to both staff and offenders.

In our first meeting we quickly concluded we need to take ourselves back to foundations and write a sustainable procurement plan that will augment the broader sustainability plan.  We left the workshop with some ideas for drafting a sustainable purchasing plan.

We were able to move on to some critical points of discussion including reframing our approach to sustainable purchasing. We re-confirmed the Department’s commitment to “Sustainable Purchasing” over “Green Purchasing.” We view sustainable purchasing as a more holistic approach to include regard for social and economic well-being as well as environmental concerns. Pursuing a sustainable purchasing program is the more challenging option, but this path will satisfy the Department’s economic and social responsibilities as well. To achieve this we have begun to produce a new sustainable purchasing policy and companion purchasing guide to nest in our broader Sustainability Plan and began work to identify and prioritize opportunities to apply this strategy.

In the second workshop we were joined by both the Deputy Secretary and Chief of Maintenance of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services.  Maryland, too, expressed a need for a sustainability training tool – a means or curriculum to introduce, educate and market sustainability to both staff and offenders.

With the help of our Maryland colleagues, our partners in the Sustainability in Prisons Project from The Evergreen State College, and staff from the U.S. Department of Energy, we developed a draft curriculum that will further strengthen the culture of environmental, economic and social responsibility already present at our facilities.  This curriculum, “Living Sustainably in a Correctional Environment: Why we do it”, was designed to be flexible and adaptable between audiences and facilities across the nation.

All credit for the successful outcomes of these two workshops are due to the support received by NIC, the consultants from FHI360 and the facilitators, technical experts and fellow stakeholders who came to the table to help us forward our sustainability goals.  The collaboration around the table was invaluable.

SPP Plant Profile: Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata)

SPP Plant Profile: Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata)
Asteraceae Family

Basic Information

Blanketflower is a tap-rooted perennial, with large showy yellow and reddish-brown flowers. Leaves are alternate, 3-6 inches long with coarsely toothed and deeply divided margins. The species is moderately long-lived, and re-seeds in abundance once established. Distributed throughout the northern part of North America and the Western United States, it’s found in dry open spaces in prairies, mountain foothills and roadside clearings.

Ecological Importance

Blanketflower stands as a nectar and food source, as well as providing resting and cover, for many important pollinators and beneficial insects. Edward fritillary (Speyeria Edwards) butterflies rely on the species as a nectar source in their adult stage. A moth species, (Schinia masoni), is camouflaged to specifically mimic the yellow ray flowers and purplish-brown disk flowers to aid in avoiding predators. Throughout Western North America, blanketflower is pollinated by the soft-winged flower beetle (Listrus senilis), recognized as a critical pollinator of the species. Blanketflower and its associated beneficial insects are main components of many northern grassland ecosystems, breaking down organic matter, increasing soil fertility and improving soil water-holding capacity and water infiltration.

Fun Facts:

Blanketflower’s drought tolerance and brilliant flowers make it a popular choice for residential and commercial landscapes. Its low water demand leads to its use in low watering zones of XeriscapeTM and water wise gardens. Furthermore, the mature leaves of blanket flower are unpalatable and its rough textured stems make this species deer-resistant, even though some whitetail deer will browse lightly at different times of the year. Finally, as long as soils are well draining, no serious pest or disease problems are associated with blanketflower, adding to its ease of growth in both the nursery and in backyards.

Close-up of Gaillardia aristata flowers. Photo by R.Gilbert.


Blanketflower on the prairie. Photo by R.Gilbert.

SPP Plant Profile: Philadelphia or Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

SPP Plant Profile: Philadelphia or Common fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Last week, SPP and CNLM staff, along with volunteers from the community, sowed more than 130 flats (about 12,748 individual cones and roughly 131,200 seeds) of Erigeron philadelphicus. What a perfect time for a SPP plant profile highlighting this species!

Basic Information

A fairly common species, Philadelphia fleabane is found across the United States as well as in most of Canada. This low-growing perennial has alternate leaves that clasp the stem, with the lowest leaves found in a basal rosette. The flowers of this species are small, pink to white with more than 100 ray flowers per head with a bright yellow center.

Ecological Importance

The pollen and nectar of this species attract many insects, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, and beetles.

Fun Facts

The genus, erigeron, comes from the Greek eri (early) and geron (old man). This may refer to the early flowering of the species, as well as the hoary down that is found on the plant, reminiscent of an old man’s beard.

This species is also a widely used medicinal species. A tea made from the plant is astringent, diaphoretic, and diuretic. It has been used in the treatment of diarrhea, gout, and epilepsy. A poultice (soft, moist mass of plant material) is used to treat headaches and is applied to sores. However, treatment can induce miscarriage in pregnant women, and some people experience minor dermatitis when handling this species.

Erigeron philadelphicus is considered invasive in suburban Shanghai, China. In these areas it has been found to accumulate heavy metals including Cu, Cd, Cr, Pb and Zn in the root, leaf and stems. It has also been shown to exhibit allelopathic effects on the growth of seedlings of four crop species in the area. Aqueous extracts from the species inhibited growth of Brassica chinensis, Brassica campestris, Cucumis sativus, and Lycopersicum esculetum.

Close-up of Philadelphia fleabane. This species has more than 100 ray flowers per head. Photo by R.Gilbert.

Erigeron philadelphicus on a prairie. Photo by R.Gilbert.











SPP Evaluations Internship Experience

SPP Evaluations Internship Experience

by SPP Undergraduate Intern Jaal Mann

Editor’s Note: Jaal is one of three stellar Evergreen undergraduates who have been working with SPP during the spring quarter.  He has been an intern for not one but TWO (related!) SPP programs: evaluations and prairie plant conservation.  This week, he writes about the world of survey analysis and lecture-based environmental education.

As an undergraduate intern with the Sustainability in Prison Project for the last 10 weeks, there has been a lot to learn. I have spent much of my time analyzing the survey responses from the lecture series in the prisons, and it has been fascinating and inspiring to see some of the positive feedback that the inmates return.

Inmates learned about the benefits of shopping locally and pledged to do so in the future after attending a lecture about organic agriculture. After a lecture on energy use and biofuels, they learned how biofuels could play a role in solving energy problems and “would love to see [biofuels] to be used by our farming communities to operate their equipment.”

The lecture series is able to reach a much broader inmate population than the frog, butterfly, or native plant projects.  It is SPP’s hope that this wide variety of inmates attending sustainability lectures will take home a different view of the subject of the lecture and of the overall subject of everyday sustainability.

Many of these lectures have left inmates with lasting lifelong information and skills, such as how to use natural herbs to treat illnesses, that “not just herbicides will kill plants”, and “to be mindful of what goes down the drain.”

Evaluation of effectiveness is a complex subject, but so far it is evident that not only knowledge-based responses are improving through lectures, but attitudes about the subjects and sustainability as well.

While our evaluation techniques are still being improved, when we hear that attendees have learned “about the importance of balance needed between our use of land, care for land and the value of butterflies to the balances needed,” and that “the world is way more complicated than I ever thought,” it definitely helps us know that we must be doing something right.

SPP staff member Carl Elliot gives a lecture at Stafford Creek Corrections Center. Lecture content is evaluated using pre- and post-lecture surveys.

Sorting through pre- and post-lecture evaluations is a big job! We use evaluations to understand knowledge retention and attitude changes as a result of our lectures and workshops.

To support unique educational opportunities for college students as well as incarcerated men and women, click here to donate to SPP.


SPP Butterfly Internship Experience

SPP Butterfly Internship Experience

by SPP Undergraduate Intern Chelsea Oldenburg

Editor’s Note: SPP has had the pleasure of working with three wonderful Evergreen undergraduate interns during this spring quarter.  Over the next few weeks, blog visitors will have the chance to read about their experiences in the students’ own words.

After 8 weeks of working with the Sustainability in Prisons Project at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women as an intern for the butterfly program a lot of unexpected things have become commonplace for me. It’s amazing how quickly I acclimate to my surroundings. After only a few days of visiting, the prison guards, razor wire and coveralls seemed normal. As does manipulating the curled proboscis of a butterfly with a paper clip and watching her perfectly paint plantain leaves with bright yellow eggs.

So far my main work this quarter has been facilitating an oviposition preference study that Dennis Aubrey is doing for his masters thesis. This means observing which plants female Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies prefer to lay their eggs on.

The women are carrying out the study five or six days a week and so Dennis, Caitlin (another intern) or I rotate coming out to insure things are running smoothly, bring supplies and run a few of the preference trials ourselves. Usually we also get a chance to help with some of the daily chores of captive rearing. These chores include: feeding adult butterflies a honey-water mixture from a q-tip, transferring eggs into various containers with a paintbrush, freshening water and supplying plantain leaves to hungry caterpillars. Aside from housekeeping and study overseeing there is a lot of time to converse with the women from MCCCW that are working on the project. They seem to truly love the butterflies they are raising and I am always impressed by their fastidiousness, acute observations and consistent positive attitudes. The love seems to go both ways as the butterflies flourish under their care.  A couple of weeks ago I was sent home from The Oregon Zoo with many more larvae, pupae and adult butterflies to bring to MCCCW because of the success with their current stock. Maybe the women at Mission Creek can care for these transforming insects from a place of real understanding as they simultaneously undergo incredible personal transformations themselves.

For the last few weeks of my internship I am excited to erect some raised beds around the butterfly rearing greenhouse. After the frames are built and a lot of soil is shoveled in, we are going to fill the beds with native prairie plants, larval food plants and nectar flowers for feeding the adult butterflies. Two of the women I work with seem genuinely excited to help with the project. Although I will be sorry to end my visits to the prison at the close of this quarter it feels good knowing I will leave behind some nourishing infrastructure.

Want to support innovative educational opportunities and the rearing of endangered butterflies?  Donate to SPP by clicking here.

SPP Plant Profile: Puget Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)

SPP Plant Profile: Puget Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Basic Information:

Balsamorhiza deltoidea, or Puget balsamroot, is late spring flowering perennial with showy sunflower like flowers. The distinct leaves of this species are basal, wide, and spear shaped. The flower stems can be up to 3 feet tall, and it is found in open, grassy areas, at low to high elevations from Southern British Columbia to Northern California.

Ecological Importance:

Considered critically imperiled but globally secure in Canada, only eight natural populations containing roughly 1,600 mature plants are thought to remain north of the border. These remaining populations are declining due to development and continued habitat degradation from competition with invasive species. There are 15 reported populations in the state of Washington. Evidence suggests that five of these populations may have been extirpated. A recent study by researchers at the University of Puget Sound* has shown that Puget Balsamroot appears to be incapable of self-pollination, and is dependent on pollinators for reproduction. However, decreases in pollinator species like bumblebees and honey-bee populations and increasing fragmentation and degradation of suitable habitat limits the natural reproduction of this and many other species.

Fun Facts:

Puget balsamroot is well known for its traditional culinary and medicinal uses. This includes its use as chicken feed by early settlers on Vancouver Island, suggesting that it was common in the area during that time period. The roots of Puget balsamroot are edible raw and when cooked have a sweet taste.  Young shoots can also be eaten raw, and seeds eaten raw or cooked. The roasted root can be used as a coffee substitute and seeds can be ground into a powder and made into bread. Medicinally, a decoction of the roots was used in the treatment of coughs and colds.

Puget balsamroot flowering on the prairie.


Taylor's checkerspot butterflies and Puget balsamroot. Photo by R. Gilbert.
















To donate to SPP and support endangered prairie plant conservation, please click here.

*This study can be found at: http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.3955/046.085.0220

SPP at Save the Frogs!

SPP at Save the Frogs!

On Saturday, April 28,  SPP Graduate Research Associates Dennis Aubrey, Andrea Martin, and Brittany Gallagher took part in the Save the Frogs Day 5K at Seward Park in Seattle.  SPP Undergrad Interns Jaal Mann and Caitlin Fate also made the trip and ran SPP’s information booth at the event.

It was a beautiful sunny day to run around the park and chat with interested amphibian lovers about restoration through incarceration.  SPP partner Marc Hayes gave a short lecture at the event after the 256 runners had completed the course.

Save the Frogs is an amphibian conservation organization at work in more than 200 countries.  For more information on them, see https://www.savethefrogs.com/index.html.

To find out more about the event in Seattle (and future STF events), visit https://www.savethefrogs.com/day/2012/seattle/index.html.

To see more pictures of SPP at the event (and to hear what else we’re up to), check out SPP on Facebook!  http://www.facebook.com/sustainableprisons.