Author Archives: Kelli Bush

Frog Release 2015: Celebrating the Program that Paved the Way!

by SPP Program Manager, Kelli Bush

On October 6th, SPP partners from Department of Corrections and The Evergreen State College gathered with representatives from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Northwest Trek, and Woodland Park Zoo to release frogs into a Pierce County wetland. This marks the sixth season of the partnership raising federally-threatened Oregon spotted frogs at Cedar Creek Corrections Center (Cedar Creek). It was a joyous occasion as all the partners gathered to release frogs from the three rearing programs.This year Cedar Creek raised 167 frogs and they have raised a total of 879 frogs since the program started in 2009.

frogs in hands

Two Oregon spotted frogs pause for moment before taking a leap into their new home. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

The program is likely to end while scientists focus on learning more about effective recovery strategies. The likely suspension of the program provides an opportunity to reflect on successes and the many contributors who have dedicated their time to this effort.


Inmate Technician Mr. Anglemeyer saying goodbye to the frogs. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

The Oregon Spotted Frog program is the first known prison animal conservation program in the United States. We were able to do this work because several key science partners were convinced that a collaborative program operated in prisons could contribute to species recovery. Special thanks to biologists Jim Lynch and Marc Hays for recognizing the potential of this program.

Since the program started, 13 inmate technicians have received herpetological training and education. SPP inmate technicians have matched the success of programs hosted at zoo facilities. The current technicians, Mr. Boysen and Mr. Anglemyer, have done excellent work!


Mr. Boysen measuring frogs with Frog and Turtle Coordinator, Sadie Gilliom. Photo by SPP Liaison Ms. Sibley.

Four corrections staff have served as the SPP Liaison for the program. Each of these staff have accepted this work in addition to their regular duties. Thanks to Ms. Sibley, the current program liaison—her time and dedication has been so important to program operation. Also, special thanks to Superintendent Doug Cole for years of enthusiastic support for the program.


Ms. Sibley, SPP Liaison holding a tomato from the greenhouse. Photo by Joslyn Trivett.


Superintendent Cole holding an Oregon spotted frog. Photo by Sadie Gilliom.

Six graduate students from Evergreen’s Masters of Environmental Studies program have served as program coordinator. Each student makes important contributions and improvements to the program. Sadie Gilliom is the current program coordinator. Sadie’s program contributions have included science seminars, animal behavior studies, and updated outreach materials.


Sadie Gilliom releasing a frog. Photo by Kelli Bush.

The Oregon Spotted Frog program at Cedar Creek paved the way for conservation programs in prisons. Through the success of this first program, collaborators proved conservation work can be done well in prisons, and that it can be rewarding for everyone involved.

As a result, new conservation programs have been started in Washington prisons and prisons in other states. SPP partners at Cedar Creek will continue caring for Western pond turtles, another species in need. Now that the frogs are gone we will be keeping an eye out for new science and sustainability programs to introduce to the prison. May these new programs be as successful as the frogs!


The SPP frog release team. Photo by frog recovery team collaborator.

The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Program Releases Another Butterfly

by Liz Louie, SPP Butterfly Technician
Introduction by Lindsey Hamilton, SPP Butterfly Program Coordinator

Butterfly technician Elizabeth Louie worked with the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) for more than two years.  She is now one of the few butterfly husbandry experts in the world.  During her time at Mission Creek she made many significant contributions to the program.  She streamlined data collection procedures and created an immaculately organized system for tracking daily activities and progress.  She always found creative solutions to problems when resources and communication with outside expertise was limited.  Lastly, as a senior butterfly technician she ensured high quality butterfly care and effectively trained and inspired incoming technicians.  The program will benefit from her good work for years to come.  Liz will be missed, but we are so happy for her and wish her the best in all that she pursues in life.


Liz Louie records data on pupae and butterfly weights.

The following is a blog written by Elizabeth Louie, now out of prison in work release:

It has been 26 months and three seasons, with two Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) bosses and three Department of Corrections (DOC) bosses, releasing approximately 8,000 caterpillars and 250 butterflies to the wild. I have come to the end of an amazing journey. As I leave Mission Creek and the TCB program, I want to say THANK YOU for the experience.

It seems appropriate that I’m leaving just as the caterpillars are going into diapause. All the hard work caring for larvae, pupae and eclosing butterflies, conducting breeding and collecting eggs is now done. It’s now a transition period. A period of rest before the cycle begins again, similar to the stage I’m in now. Work release, a time of transition and preparation for my final release into the community.

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection.  Photo by Judith Gerren

Liz Louie explains the details of butterfly husbandry to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human – Animal Connection. Photo by Judith Gerren

A writer from Sierra Magazine recently asked what I thought about the irony of having a butterfly program in prison; the contrast between the delicate, fragile butterfly and the “harshness” of prison life. For me, butterflies are very resilient animals. Their primary habitat was an artillery range, the aftermath of fire and destruction. Metaphorically, the butterfly symbolizes re-birth, new life and beginnings. So with that said, Mission Creek (prison) makes a lot of sense for a surrogate habitat.

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae.  We keep them in bins with paper bags ("mima mounds") to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

Liz is demonstrating how we care for postdiapause larvae. We keep them in bins with paper bags (“mima mounds”) to climb on after they wake up from their winter slumber. Photo by Jody Becker-Green

In fact, there are other parallels between the butterflies and prison life. The larvae will sometimes go into second diapause (D2) if they feel conditions are not right. Maybe there’s not enough food, so the larvae will go back to sleep. Similar to D2 larvae, women come in and out of prison. They may not have gotten what they needed from prison the first time, or they lack outside support to help them be successful. But for me personally, at my age, its good to know that the final stage is a butterfly. It means the most beautiful stage of my life is yet to come. All the other stages have been in preparation for that final one.


Liz Louie shows inmate Samantha Turner how to remove a new pupae from a “mima mound”. This is a very delicate process.

This will be a time in my life that I won’t soon forget. The people I’ve met and the women I’ve worked with, I take away something from each of them. I’ve learned a lot about myself, both the good, and the things I need to change. I have a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. I walk away a stronger person and look forward to whatever life holds.

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele

Inmate Liz Louie feeds a Taylor’s checkerspot honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.


By Samantha Turner,  Butterfly Technician at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

I have had a negative impact on many things throughout my life.  As much as I hate to bring to light all my defects, I would have to say that I have had more negative than positive influences in the past.

I find myself today actively changing this pattern.  I strive to do what is right.  Being a part of the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s (SPP) Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program has given me a huge opportunity to make an impact in a majorly positive way.  I’m learning so much in this program and all the while I find my life is comparable to the cycle of these butterflies’ lives.

I’m shedding my old skin to morph into a new person.

Technician Samantha Turner with a post-diapause larvae bin. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Technician Samantha Turner works with a postdiapause larvae bin. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Samantha is diligently taking notes in order to track each individual butterfly through it's transformation.  Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

Samantha is diligently taking notes in order to track each individual butterfly through its transformation. Photo by Jody Becker-Green.

This program is fighting to keep the Taylor’s checkerspot alive.  Along with saving their lives, I am fighting to save mine.  So, the SPP program is majorly impacting not only the butterflies’ lives, but my life, and preserving a fighting chance at a future for both of us.

Checkerspot larvae are social insects.  They often follow each other around and eat together.  Photo by inmate technician

Checkerspot larvae are social insects. They often follow each other around and eat together. Photo by inmate technician

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women butterfly technicians. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women butterfly technicians posed by a garden where they grow food for the caterpillars. Photo by Lindsey Hamilton

Thank you for this program and I look forward to all the possibilities.

Washington State Monarchs Going the Distance

Just like many of us head south to escape the cold dark winters of the Northwest, so do butterflies! The Pacific Northwest Monarch butterfly population is thought to overwinter in coastal California and possibly central Mexico. This species is sensitive to fir tree and milkweed declines, and past research suggests that our butterflies are having difficulty making it to their ultimate destination each winter. The current extent of the Washington population’s migration and wintering area is largely unknown.

The Santa Cruz California Monarch Aggregation.  Two butterflies released just 4 days apart in August from Yakima, Washington traveled 675 miles (at least) to this same overwintering site!

Dr. David James, an associate professor at Washington State University (WSU) is studying this migration to learn more. In collaboration with the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) in Walla Walla, volunteers and inmates raise thousands of Monarch butterflies to be tagged and released every fall. Each butterfly carries a small, light-weight sticker showing an ID number and an email address. After release, they wait until a stranger in the south makes contact to tell them where their butterflies have landed.

Washington State Penitentiary Monarch Butterfly Rearing 2012


David James explaining monarch biology to inmates at WSP.

On November 22nd an observer counting Monarchs in Goleta, California found a butterfly that was tagged at WSP. Goleta is 825 straight line miles from Walla Walla! This is the longest travel distance recorded for a Washington Monarch making this the most important re-sighting to date! Previous recoveries proved migration only as far south as San Francisco.

One of the 50 monarchs released from Yakima in October.

This is a great example of how the Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) model of collaborative partnerships with prisons allows multiple partners to participate in conservation efforts that reach far beyond Washington State. SPP staff at The Evergreen State College would like to congratulate WSU and WSP on this great achievement! We look forward to learning more about where our Monarchs travel in the coming years. To track the Monarch project yourself, follow their Facebook page.

Monarch wanted from fb

SPP Says Goodbye and Best Wishes to Dedicated Butterfly Technician

The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (TCB) rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) was initiated in 2011. Inmate technicians first practiced raising painted lady butterflies in a new greenhouse just outside the facility’s gates. In less than a year they proved themselves more-than-capable at this kind of work. In 2012 they started rearing and breeding the endangered TCB.


Carolina Landa was an inmate technician with the program from its inception. She was present for the first delivery of TCB caterpillars. She worked with SPP from 2011 to 2013 as a full-time technician. Then, while completing other programs at MCCCW she volunteered her time to support new technicians. Over the years she helped raise over 6,000 caterpillars and butterflies for release onto South Sound Prairies. She has created new and innovative husbandry practices, participated in butterfly research, and helped to train and mentor other inmate technicians along the way. Her dedication, passion, and commitment to the delicate and detailed work of raising butterflies, is a large part of the reason this new and unique program has proven successful. These early accomplishments ensured that SPP, DOC staff, future inmate technicians, and other SPP partners will have the opportunity to continue work to recover this federally listed species.


Earlier this year Carolina wrote: “I just want to say that through these butterflies I have learned so much, and healed. It is amazing how God places all things in your life for a reason. This program has changed my life forever. I am so grateful for the knowledge, accomplishments and growth it has provided me. It is exciting to care for these beautiful creatures and giving back to the environment gives me a good feeling. ”

Photo by Benj Drummond

In mid-July Carolina transferred from MCCCW into a Community Parenting Alternative (CPA) program. This unique and groundbreaking program allows an inmate to serve up to 12 of the last months of their sentence in Home Detention. The focuses of this 2010 legislation are on the child, family, and the importance of maintaining the family bond for inmates reentering the community. Due to the contributions Carolina made during her incarceration, she was granted this well-deserved opportunity to finish her sentence with her family.

This means that Carolina is no longer a butterfly technician at MCCCW. However, her contributions will stay with the program for years to come. She states that she would like to continue her involvement in the TCB rearing program as a volunteer or student after she is released. She intends to pursue an undergraduate degree at The Evergreen State College in the near future.

SPP would like to thank Carolina for all of her work with the butterflies and welcome her back into her community. We wish her the best of luck in all that she aspires to in the future.

The Butterflies Get Their Own Computer

By SPP Taylor’s checkerspot program coordinator Lindsey Hamilton

At Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) four inmate technicians raise Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies as a contribution to the recovery of this prairie species. Following the direction of the Oregon Zoo in Portland, Oregon, they have been successfully rearing and breeding these butterflies for three years. This butterfly was federally listed in October of 2013, which means that anyone working with this species is now held to high accountability and rigorous reporting. The technicians at MCCCW have always been successful at collecting detailed data on all phases of butterfly husbandry.

The Oregon Zoo recently created an Access database that will store all rearing and breeding information for both facilities in one place. This database will increase the quality of all data collected and provide for efficient access for tracking trends and bi-annual reporting.

Butterfly Computer
This has created a new opportunity for the technicians at MCCCW to learn the skill of data entry and management using Access. A computer containing this database was set up in a common living area within the facility last fall, and as simple as this sounds, it represents a major accomplishment for a prison environment! The inmate technicians will now be able to directly enter their data from the program . The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program coordinator for SPP, Lindsey Hamilton, will then extract the data via USB and send it to the Oregon Zoo. Butterfly rearing is seasonal work, and the technicians usually have little to do in the off season. With the 2 years of back logged data that needs to be entered, the technicians will stay busy this winter when our caterpillars are sleeping.

Counting the Birds instead of counting the days until summer at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women

By Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly program coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant, Lindsey Hamilton

At Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women (MCCCW) four inmate technicians rear Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies as a contribution to recovery efforts for this endangered species.  These  technicians are hired to work year-round even though the workload is not consistent throughout the year.  In late July the butterfly larvae enter into diapause, which means that they cuddle up with their brothers and sisters to sleep until late February.  During this life stage the technicians have minimal butterfly-related responsibilities.

For the first time this year the technicians are participating in a citizen science project organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called Project FeederWatch.  Project FeederWatch surveys birds that visit feeders all across North America throughout the winter months.  Feeders that are surveyed can be located in backyards, community areas, nature centers, and even prisons!  The inmates at MCCCW watch three different bird feeders for a period of time on two consecutive days of every week, and record how many birds of each species that are attracted to the feeders.  This data is collected by an SPP Graduate Research Assistant and entered into the FeederWatch database online.  The information collected by this project helps scientists track movements of winter bird populations on a broad scale and is also used to monitor long term trends in bird distribution and abundance.