Cross Pollination: Violet Program Presents in the Workshop Series

Text and Photos by Erin Lynam, SPP Workshop Series Coordinator and Alexandra James, SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator

The Prairie Conservation Nursery Crew: pictured from left to right are technician Fred Burr, TAs John Thompson and Situe Fuiava, and technicians Michael Johnson and Dustin Sutherland.

July’s Environmental Workshopat Washington Corrections Center (WCC) was a very special one. This month’s guest experts were Conservation Technicians from SPP’s Conservation Nursery Program at WCC. Presenting alongside were the Teaching Assistants (TAs) that work with and support the technicians every day.

The workshop was about the technicians’ day-to-day work in WCC’s greenhouse and gardens to promote ecological and cultural restoration projects across Washington State. They covered the ecological importance of the early blue violet, especially its connection to the silverspot butterfly. They described the tedious but incredibly important process of growing violets and collecting their seeds, and how that work directly impacts the greater South Sound communities. They spoke to personal impacts their environmental work has had on them. In addition, they talked about the future of their work and the initiation of new conservation-minded projects at WCC.

SPP’s Conservation Nursery hosted by WCC continues to be among the most generative nurseries for native violet production for restoration of South Salish lowland prairies. The violets grown at WCC are used in prairie restoration efforts by state and federal agencies and conservation organizations including U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Joint-Base Lewis McChord, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife, WA Department of Natural Resources, and the Center for Natural Lands Management. Violet seed collection is the focus for WCC’s Conservation Nursery Program, where Technicians learn how to nurture thousands of violet plants to optimize seed production. Technicians collect seeds from June to November. Collected seeds require cleaning, which requires sifting through a 5-plate seed sifter, inspection, and stowing in seed-safe containers. The technicians’ careful work ensure that seeds are well cleaned and ready for delivery to the various agencies and organizations.

Pictured on the left side of the table, TA Situe Fuiava and technician Dustin Sutherland show the process of sorting violet seeds.

Just like anyone who has to speak in front of a group of people, the technicians and TAs were nervous, but it didn’t show: they were cool as cucumbers through the presentation. However, by sharing their immense knowledge, demonstrating how seeds are sorted, and addressing challenging questions about the conservation work they do, their workshop was both engaging and interesting. After the workshop, it was evident that the successful experience had been a boost to their confidence. They were chatty with excitement, and were even walking a little taller.

And it wasn’t just the technicians who were positively affected by their presentation; the staff was affected as well. They showed honor and excitement for the excellent crew. WCC’s Workshop Series Liaison, Jeff Sanders, said he could not stop smiling through the whole workshop. Nursery Coordinator Alexandra James expressed that she felt incredibly proud of the crew for their hard work, dedication, and passion for the program and its positive impact on our prairie ecosystems.

Technicians and TAs present; Conservation Nursery Coordinator, Alexandra James, was only needed for technical support.

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