SPP Launches a New Partnership with the Research Ambassador Program

By Research Ambassador Program Project Manager Amy Stasch

The Sustainable Prisons Project (SPP) recently strengthened its Science and Sustainability Lecture Series with the initiation of a new partnership with the Research Ambassador Program (RAP), a project of The Evergreen State College, funded by the National Science Foundation. The RAP is led by Evergreen State College faculty member Dr. Nalini Nadkarni and Project Manager Amy Stasch.

The RAP enhances scientific engagement and scientific literacy among the public by connecting scientists with non-traditional audiences such as senior citizen centers, prisons, faith-based communities, and businesses to develop accessible and interactive communication strategies for public engagement with science. The SPP will collaborate with RAP to host visiting scientists as guest lecturers in the SPP’s monthly lecture series at three Washington State prisons.

The SPP hosted its first RAP science fellow, Katie Renwick, on Thursday, January 14th, 2011 for a presentation at the Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women, a minimum security prison located in Belfair, Washington.  Renwick is a first year doctoral student studying the interactions of bark beetle infestations, fire, disturbance, and recovery in the Rocky Mountains.  She presented an hour-long lecture about her scientific research on how ecological changes affect forests, and how they can recover after these changes.  From these concepts, offenders drew parallels to their own lives and the disturbances they have experienced and are recovering from.

The lecture was the first Science and Sustainability lecture to be hosted at Mission Creek, and received excellent turnout. The women attending were attentive and asked insightful questions. Several inmates approached Renwick following the lecture, thanking her for her time and for helping them relate their own struggles to phenomena that are continuously influencing the forests.  Through this unique encounter, Renwick was able to engage an otherwise unaware audience in scientific discussion, while attending offenders reaped the benefits of her specialized knowledge and inspiration, an experience the SPP and RAP hope to replicate in the coming months.

The SPP will continue to collaborate with the RAP and monthly lectures have already been scheduled through June 2011.

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