Author Archives: trivettj

New Evaluations Program

By Brittany Gallagher, SPP Evaluations Coordinator and Graduate Research Assistant

­photoThis winter, the SPP began its first statewide evaluation of the effects of SPP programming on inmate program participants.  More than 400 offenders, including those who work in a variety of SPP programs as well as a control group of offenders not involved in sustainability-related programming, were invited to enroll in the study. The study was designed to examine the effects of participation in SPP programs on offenders’ well-being, plans for the future, and interpersonal relationships, as well as their environmental attitudes and beliefs.

In order to begin this study, students, staff, and faculty from SPP worked with researchers at Washington State University, the University of Washington, The Evergreen State College, and the Department of Corrections to design survey tools and complete a full Human Subjects Review (HSR) application. Once the HSR research application was approved, we submitted an additional application to the Department of Corrections for approval to conduct research in their prison facilities. SPP staff scheduled research visits to nine Washington prisons. During January and February, more than 375 offenders at these prisons completed surveys contributing to the study. Our thanks go out to prison staff and administrators who helped survey administration run smoothly and to the offenders who filled out the surveys.

SPP graduate research assistants have been busily entering mountains of resulting  data, and early analysis has already begun. We presented study design and preliminary results at the recent SPP Network meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah and were well received. I will also present the study at CONFOR, an international conference for graduate students, held this year in Kananaskis, Alberta.

Stay tuned for updates–as I continue my analysis I hope to have much more to share!

SPP National Workshop was a resounding success

Teams meet again to complete the launching of six new SPPs!

by Joslyn Rose Trivett, Interim Program Manager


Teams from the states of Oregon, Ohio, Maryland, California, and Washington as well as Multnomah, Santa Clara, and Los Angeles counties were hosted by the Utah team for a two and half day workshop. The workshop was the bookend to the conference held in Olympia back in September. Both meetings were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)–SPP Co-Director, Carri LeRoy and Senior Advisor, Nalini Nadkarni secured the funding to help new teams initiate programming based on the SPP model, and create an SPP Network. The same teams attended both meetings, and it was exciting and fun to be reunited.

Paul Sheldon, an expert in sustainable operations in prisons nation-wide, also attended both meetings, and at the second we gained Tommy Norris, Director of At the Utah workshop we were also blessed by the expertise of Sarah Galgano of the Vera Institute and Kathleen Gookin of Criminal Justice Planning Services, Inc. Conference evaluator Chuck Lennox of Cascade Interpretive Consulting LLC and facilitator Eric Mitchell of Fifth Ocean Consulting provided guidance on Network visioning, structure, and strategy. These experts’ diverse perspectives enriched the conversations and the outcomes of the workshop.

The agenda was action-packed, and communications ranged from tackling difficult questions to wide-ranging dreams for the future. Every team presented highlights of their progress and plans, and we were dazzled at how far they had come in six months. The group discussed tools created by our SPP-WA team that will support the Network and gave feedback and ideas for how the Network may best meet their future needs. I feel gratified at the efforts of our hosts and every team who attended. There was a great showing of optimism, creativity, and good humor. May we all meet again soon!

All photos are from the gala at the lovely Orangerie, an event that also included invites from local conservation, education, and restoration organizations. SPP Co-Director Dan Pacholke and Graduate Research Assistant Andrea Martin performed their TEDx talk and it was even better than the original. In addition, it was exciting to hear former inmate Craig Ulrich speak about his life-changing experiences with SPP-WA and current PhD research, and Tami Goetz (UT Legislative Science Advisor) discuss the need for expanded STEM (science technology engineering and mathematics) education. Hats off to SPP-UT for a terrific workshop!



Bountiful gardens at Washington Corrections Center for Women

By Melissa R. Johnson, Administrative Assistant, Washington Corrections Center for Women

Program director Ed Tharp in the garden at Washington Corrections Center for Women.Gig Harbor, Wash.—Emphasizing the importance of sustainability, the horticulture program at Washington Corrections Center for Women provides an opportunity for offenders to enroll as Tacoma Community College students in order to learn job skills and gain important experience in nursery operations and floral design. So far this year, the gardens have produced 9,365 pounds of vegetables that were harvested and then prepared and served in the offender kitchen—and it’s still growing.

“This is one of the most gratifying jobs I have ever had,” said program director Ed Tharp. “One of the things I enjoy the most is seeing the ladies succeed when they get out.”

The facility’s horticulture department employs 10 students as teacher assistants who are responsible for the planting and harvesting of the gardens. Currently 51 students are enrolled in horticulture and 14 are enrolled in organic farming. Horticulture students learn about sustainable gardening, vegetable gardening, plant propagation, commercial greenhouses, floral design, floral shop operation and integrated pest management, just to name a few.  Organic farming students have the opportunity to work on an outside crew at Mother Earth Farm, an organic farm in Puyallup.

Canyon Little, Mother Earth Farm manager, said her farm has been able to produce about 148,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables on nearly eight acres of land in the Puyallup Valley. She told Tharp she was “impressed with how hard each of the offenders worked on every visit, and how they were eager to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through their education.”

The garden at Washington Corrections Center for Women“Because each offender demonstrated a high capacity of responsibility for day-to-day farm activities, I decided to assign special projects for each lady,” Little said. “The project idea was a way for the offenders to take ownership of the farm, learn something new and educate each other on their respective projects. Being a part of the learning process was an enriching experience as a manager, and I look forward to working with Washington Corrections Center for Women to explore new boundaries, build knowledge and experiences and work together to fight hunger.”

Mother Earth Farm works with the Emergency Food Network by supplying fresh produce to 74 local food banks, hot-meal sites and shelters in Pierce County. Other produce was sent to the Cannery Project in Kent, which converted the donations into more than 1000,000 cans of fruits and vegetables.

Washington Corrections Center for Women is excited to see what next year will hold. Next year’s garden is already planned and the seeds are ordered.

Using Worms to Reduce Food Waste at Monroe Correctional Complex!

By Donna Simpson, Administrative Assistant 3 at Monroe Correctional Complex

The Monroe Correctional Complex is using worms to reduce food waste disposal costs while also providing a meaningful science and sustainability education and work program for offenders.

Currently at 5 million worms, the vermiculture program can process 10,000 pounds of food scraps per month, resulting in a cost reduction of more than 25%.  This translates into big savings for the prison, which previously spent $60,000 a year on food waste disposal before several sustainability initiatives began.

In January of 2010, staff and offenders developed the vermiculture program by collecting just 200 red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) for three small breeding bins built by offenders. Very little funding has been invested in the program. As the worm population grew, new and improved models of worm bins were built by converting discarded barrels, old laundry carts, food carts, and recycled mattress materials. This indoor commercial-sized “Wormery” currently has more than 170 worm bins designed and built by offenders.  Seventeen of the bins are “flow-through” style.  The flow-through bins are primarily built from re-purposed materials by offenders, whereas they would typically retail at more than $5,000 each.

This program provides other benefits, including the by-products produced by the worms. Worm castings (worm manure) are a valuable, high-quality organic fertilizer sought after in the organic gardening market. The “Wormery” also produces 400 gallons of worm tea fertilizer per week. The worm castings and worm tea are used in the several acres of gardens at Monroe Correctional Complex.

Studies have shown that offenders who participate in horticulture programs while incarcerated have a lower rate of recidivism. Offenders develop important vocational and life skills. The worm technicians at MCC wrote an operations manual that is now available to assist other institutions in starting new vermiculture programs. They have also developed an extensive breeding program capable of exporting worms to other Washington institutions, agencies or schools. Thus far, Washington State Penitentiary and Stafford Creek Corrections Center have received worms as a result of this program.


Worm breeding bins


Flow through bins designed and built by inmates


Worm Breeding Bins


New Tilapia Program at Stafford Creek Corrections Center

by Lucienne Guyot, Executive Secretary Correctional Industries and Lyle Morse, Director Correctional Industries

Construction is well underway on the greenhouse which will house tilapia at Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen. The lean, fresh water fish will live in water heated by solar panels manufactured at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.  Offenders working in the new Correctional Industries program will rear the fish.  Besides feeding and general care for the tilapia, offenders will learn the craft of fish rearing including monitoring nitrates, nitrites, ammonia and regulating these substances along with water quality and temperature. They will perform equipment maintenance, monitor alarms and produce a protein source for use in offender meals. The facility is designed to have a capacity of 40,000 lbs of fish per year with the possibility for expansion.  The agency will develop a fish patty to serve as the primary dietary product.

The Department of Corrections is not new to offering offenders work in sustainability projects. This new Correctional Industries program is well-aligned with the on-going Sustainability in Prisons Project, a partnership between the Department, The Evergreen State College, state and federal agencies, and conservation organizations.

Tilapia Tanks and Greenhouse at Stafford Creek Corrections Center


Foundation Donations Provide Support for SPP!

By SPP Project Manager Kelli Bush

The Sustainability in Prisons Project (SPP) recently received generous donations from two different family foundations. The funds from the first donation will be used to help support our evaluation program, efforts to expand SPP to other states, and some of our general operating costs. The second donation provides much needed help with general operating costs such as supplies for our conservation projects, printed pamphlets describing our work, education materials for incarcerated individuals or transportation to prisons. Both awards are greatly appreciated and make a significant difference in helping us accomplish our mission. If you would like to make a donation to SPP through The Evergreen State College Foundation please click here.

SPP Plant Profile: Harsh Indian Paintbush (Castilleja hispida)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Harsh Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida)

Basic information:

Castilleja hispida, or harsh Indian paintbrush, grows in a cluster from a woody perennial base with many fine hairs throughout. Its leaves are lance-shaped, and the upper stem may be divided into shallow lobes. Flowers are greenish, but are partially covered by bracts of bright scarlet, yellow, or orange. It grows best in dry openings in forests and meadows, from the coast to high elevations. Locally common, it flowers in the early summer.

Harsh Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida)

Harsh Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) Photo: Rod Gibert

Ecological Importance:

Castilleja hispida is an important larval host for Taylor’s checkerspot (Euphydryas editha taylori) butterflies, state listed as endangered and a candidate for federal listing. In February, SPP will begin a captive rearing program for Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies at Mission Creek Correctional Center for Women (MCCCW). Inmates at MCCCW, along with SPP graduate research associate Dennis Aubrey, have been preparing by raising a surrogate species.  The painted lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies have been successfully bred in facilities at MCCCW and The Evergreen State College over the last six months.

An interesting and potentially important relationship between Castilleja hispida, Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies and gophers has been witnessed. Some paintbrush specimens at the Artillery Impact Area (AIA) have been found fresh and green well after the majority of the population has senesced  on Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM) prairies. Currently, the only remaining population of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies on JBLM is also found on the AIA. It is hypothesized that these persistent blooming paintbrush specimens may be atop gopher or mole mounds, which create enough of a microclimate to lengthen flowering time. This factor, along with other reasons such as frequent fires from artillery exercises may help to explain the long-term persistence of Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies on the JBLM prairies.

Fun Facts:

Similar to other Castilleja species, harsh paintbrush is hemiparasitic, which means it’s parasitic under natural conditions but is also photosynthetic. It may just obtain water, mineral nutrients, or organic nutrients from the host plant. Although it does not always require a host plant, it may grow better with a host, such as Roemer’s fescue (Festuca roemeri).

SPP Plant Profile: Early-Blue Violet (Viola adunca)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Early-Blue Violet (Viola adunca) Photo: Rod Gilbert

Basic information:

Viola adunca, or early-blue violet, is a short perennial with short slender rhizomes. Leaves are alternate, heart shaped to ovate. The flowers of this viola are blue to deep violet, but can often be whitish at the base. Flowers have 5 petals, and bloom from April to August. Fruit are born in capsules with three valves, and the explosiveness of the splitting of the capsules often makes seed collection tricky.

Ecological Importance:

The Mardon skipper (Polites mardon) butterfly depends on Viola adunca as a spring-flowering nectar source. The small orange butterfly is found on two South Sound prairies, and is listed as a State Endangered Species and is a Federal Candidate Species. Zerene fritillaries (Speyeria zerene) also use Viola adunca, but as a larval host. Three subspecies of the Zerene Fritillary are listed on the U.S. Endangered Species List, including the Oregon Silverspot which is classified as threatened in California, Oregon and Washington.

Studies have found that Viola adunca are poor competitors, and are easily displaced by invasive species. Non-native grasses increase thatch density and vegetation height, compete for resources and reduce open space for germination and thus reduce Viola adunca populations. Experiments also show that fire stimulates germination in Viola adunca, and fire could be used to increase Viola adunca populations and provide more area for nectar and larval hosting for butterflies.

Early-Blue Violet (Viola adunca) Photo: Rod Gilbert

Fun facts:

Violet leaves contain more vitamin A than spinach, and a half-cup of leaves has more vitamin C than four oranges! Now, don’t go out and start eating, Viola adunca is a very important larval host and nectar source for threatened butterflies. Another reason to limit consumption: its rhizomes, fruits and seeds are poisonous. Adunca means hooked, and other common names include the hooked-spur violet and the western dog violet.

SPP Plant Profile: Roemer’s Fescue (Festuca roemeri)

By Graduate Research Associate Evan Hayduk

Festuca Roemeri, Roemer’s Fescue

This is the first installment in a new series of pieces we are calling our plant profiles. Over the coming months we will highlight one of the 40 species of prairie or riparian plants that are grown at Stafford Creek Correctional Facility. This is intended to give you an idea of what we are growing, focus on the conservation importance of each species, and offer a few fun facts about each species.

Basic Information: Roemer’s fescue is a bluish, gray-green tufted bunch grass that grows from British Columbia (southeastern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands), and west of the Cascade Mountains in Washington, Oregon and Northern California. These areas are typically temperate, with maritime influence. Roemer’s fescue grows from sea level to about 2500 ft. The species is also found in thin-soiled windswept shorelines on the islands of the Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Straits of Georgia.

Ecological Importance: A foundation species of the prairies of the Pacific Northwest, Roemer’s fescue is predominately found in the glacial outwash prairies of the South Sound and those which have a history of anthropogenic burning.  Its quick growth makes this fescue an effective ground cover, but its bunch grass nature allows for the growth of other important prairie species, including associated species common camas (Camassia quamash), field woodrush (Luzula campestris), spike goldenrod (Solidago spanthulata), early blue violet (Viola adunca) and prairie lupine (Lupinus lepidus) to name a few.

Who is this Roemer guy anyway? Roemer’s fescue is named for Swiss physician, professor of botany and entomologist Johann Jakob Roemer (1762-1819). Roemer was best known for one of the greatest achievements in the history of Swiss entomology, the Genera insectorum Linnaei et Frabricii. Roemer also published the 16th edition of Carlos Linnaeus’ Systema Vegetabilium.

Fescue in the teaching gardens at The Evergreen State CollegeFescue plugs

Fescue plugs


Prairie Fires

By Graduate Research Associate Carl Elliot

Walking through the Douglas fir forests in the mist and rain of the Pacific Northwest does not conjure up thoughts of wildfire. Most people, residents and non-residents alike, picture a Northwest landscape of grand old growth forests standing forever enriched by cool weather and rain. A closer inspection in many forested areas in the Puget lowland reveals that fire did have an influence on the plant ecology and landscape. On the few sites that still support the growth of ancient trees, occasional fire scars can be seen coating the bark and gnarled lower branches of the oldest residents.  The frequency of fires in the Puget lowlands by “natural” causes such as lightning strikes is around one every 500 years.  However, the evidence of fire return times from sites in the San Juan Islands down to South Puget Sound show much more frequent fire intervals.

The most frequent fires in the maritime areas of the Pacific Northwest may have been ignited by First Peoples. Fire was a tool used in numerous ways to secure necessary food and materials. Fire could be managed to herd or see game and promote the growth of the available browse plants. Perennial understory and woodland edge plants such as blackcap raspberries, wild strawberries, blue elderberry, bracken fern, and other food sources would increase in abundance and production in response to fire occurring every five years of so.

The most documented and common use of fire was    found on the landscape of Garry oak woodlands and prairies throughout the Puget basin. The burning practices provided vital resources to “inland groups” of First Peoples who had limited access to Puget Sound waterways and tidelands. The oak woodlands primarily provided acorns and camas bulbs, along with a diverse diet of roots and berries. Anthropological research has documented complex family ownership of distinct oak woodlands, camas fields, nettle and berry patches. These areas were burned yearly and harvest techniques of camas in particular involved cultivation practices to ensure long term fertility and abundance. For an excellent overview of Northwest Coast traditional plant use and cultivation see Keep it Living edited by Douglas Deur and Nancy J. Turner.

The first arrival of European and U.S. agriculturalist brought a drastic change in the use of fire as a tool to produce food. Fires were viewed as destructive and dangerous, and indeed they are, catastrophic fires have been battled throughout the west since the time of the first agricultural settlements. Active fire suppression has had definite consequences to the ecology of the western landscape.   For prairies in the Pacific Northwest in particular, fire suppression created a number of changes that can be seen in prairie plant composition and the density of plant cover. Fire suppression allows Douglas-fir and shrubs to increase in abundance, shrinking the overall landscape of the prairie. The reduction in disturbance increases the dominance of large grasses that reduces nectar and forage plants for insects. In general, without fire the biodiversity of the oak woodland and prairie landscape decreases greatly affecting habitat quality.

Accompanying the suppression of fire, European agriculture and animal husbandry introduced pasture grasses and invasive plants. The introduction of domestic stock reduces the vigor of native bunch grasses and forbs and increases the abundance of invasive grasses and forbs. Invasive plants such as Scot’s broom readily dominate the low fertility prairie soils in the absence of fire. These numerous stressors reduce the biodiversity and habitat quality of prairies throughout the region. Of the remaining remnant prairies less than 1% contains healthy populations of native plants. This change in plant composition has had a drastic impact on the insects and animals that utilize the prairies as habitat.

Restoration ecologists are actively working to restore prairie habitat for numerous threatened and endangered species including the Taylor’s Checkerspot, Mardon Skipper and Puget Blue butterflies, as well as the streaked-horned lark and the diminutive Mazama pocket gopher. The re-introduction of fire is one restoration tool to improve habitat on prairies.  These fires are control burns requiring complex organization and cooperation among numerous State and Federal agencies. The majority of the prairie landscape occurs on Joint Base Lewis McCord (JBLM). In the summer of 2011, JBLM implemented an ambitious program that completed almost 2000 acres of controlled burns. These fires provide dramatic pictures of the changes fire brings to a landscape.

The re-introduction of fire is only the first step in the restoration process. Fire performs well to eliminate invasive woody plants and Douglas-fir trees from the prairie. However, the reduction woody plants create a great amount of bare ground suitable for seed germination. Without active next steps in the restoration process the use of fire may result in a further degraded prairie through the introduction of non-native plants. Many of the native plants are limited in distribution and abundance by the amount of seed or propagules that are left in the remnant prairies. This is where the Sustainable Prisons Project becomes involved. The role of the Conservation Nursery at Stafford Creek Corrections Center is to provide the necessary plants to produce seed that can be distributed after the fire. The native species are grown at the nursery to be planted out in seed beds at JBLM. The seed is then harvested and cleaned to be drilled in or spread across the restored prairies.

There are numerous changes and adaptations that have to occur to make the restoration process a success. Often it seems as if no two prairies go through the same trajectories after restoration, leading to a great amount of uncertainty as to how to restore and measure a healthy habitat.  Questions regarding appropriate sowing rates, effective germination and establishment of native plants; pollination,  noxious weed control and endangered species re-introduction are just a few of the research objectives scientists are working on.. Since prairies require control burns every three to five years, humans will be actively involved in their care for as long as we value the prairie landscape.