These prison inmates are saving the Earth as they serve their time.

It's a big day for these turtles. After rehabilitation, they're healthy, happy, and getting released back into the wild.

The 23 endangered western pond turtles swam away with much fanfare after successfully receiving treatment for a disease that caused their shells to deteriorate.


GIFs via Oregon Zoo/YouTube.

These vulnerable animals were able to make a triumphant return to the water thanks in large part to a unique conservation effort at Larch Corrections Center.

That's right — residents of the Vancouver, Washington, minimum security facility essentially ran a small hospital for the turtles as they recovered.

They delivered basic care and provided minor treatments. And after all their hard work, the men were able to attend the release, and witness their patients' return to the river.

Efforts like this are possible through Washington's Sustainability in Prisons Program.

It began in 2003 as a pilot project between Cedar Creek Corrections Center and Evergreen State College. Cedar Creek was looking to go green, and had already launched gardening, compost, and recycling projects. Around the same time, a professor at Evergreen, Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, was looking to work with inmates to study forest mosses, which desperately needed to be replenished.

The two projects crossed paths and within five years, the partnership grew and expanded to become the Sustainability in Prisons Program (SPP).

The program has now expanded to every corrections facility in Washington, with most boasting anywhere from eight to 12 projects on site, including gardening classes, dog training programs, composting and recycling initiatives, even environmental literacy courses and lectures.

SPP guest lecturer Rus Higley of the Marine Science and Technology Center at Highline College observes a red octopus with a student. Photo by Liliana Caughman, used with permission from the Sustainability in Prisons Project.

The program's partnerships with zoos along with local and national fish and wildlife departments have led to many successful conservation efforts.

Incarcerated individuals at Cedar Creek Corrections Center learned about beekeeping and even became certified as apprentice beekeepers. The men in the program learned fundamentals and how to build and maintain colonies and even how to manufacture lotions and lip balms from beeswax.

Entomologist Sam Hapke (center) trains inmates to become beekeepers. Photo via Sustainability in Prisons Project, used with permission.

In a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management, inmates at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center are growing sagebrush, a woody shrub, to restore habitats for the sage-grouse, a local bird that relies on the plant for survival. The plants the inmates raise in the facility's nursery will be planted in central Washington.

A conservation technician tends to the sagebrush nursery. Photo by Jeff Clark, BLM, used with permission from Sustainability in Prisons Project.

The women at the Mission Creek Corrections Center built a facility to breed and raise Taylor's checkerspot butterflies. The creatures were once fairly common in the Pacific Northwest, but have experienced rapid decline since 2001.

Photo by USFWS Endangered Species/Flickr.

Mission Creek partnered with the Oregon Zoo (which created the first Taylor's checkerspot program) and the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to release 2,500 butterflies into the wild each year onto restored prairies on the Puget Sound. Together, the Mission Creek and Oregon Zoo facilities have released more than 17,000 butterflies.


An inmate feeds a butterfly honey water from a Q-tip. Photo by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele, used with permission from Sustainability in Prisons Project.

And though it's too early to track recidivism rates, the program already has plenty of success stories.

"The program is getting mature enough that folks are starting to release from prison and enroll in the Evergreen State College and other academic institutions," said Kelli Bush, SPP program manager.

But SPP doesn't only benefit the incarcerated individuals who learn new skills and gain sense of pride for a job well done.

It also helps the research professionals and project partners — and not just with their sustainability efforts. Because many of them are interacting with the correctional system for the first time, it's often a learning experience for everyone.

Biologist Stefani Bergh (left) talks about western pond turtle care with SPP program coordinator Sadie Gilliom and two of Larch's newest turtle technicians. Photo by Carl Elliott,used with permission from Sustainability in Prisons Project.

"[Science and research professionals] are interacting with incarcerated individuals and gaining a human perspective on issues that are typically outside their scope," Bush said. "And so you really see just really beautiful exchanges between these two groups ... I think it's changing perspectives about who's incarcerated and what incarcerated individuals are capable of."

The model has been so successful, it's catching on across the country.

"Other states have begun modeling programs on the work here in Washington, including really great work being done by Oregon ... Ohio, Maryland, Utah," Bush said. "So it's kind of all over the nation now. "

SPP and Department of Corrections staff members (left) join turtle technicians at a release in 2014. Photo via Sustainability in Prisons Project, used with permission.

Whether it's an injured turtle or someone behind bars, an opportunity to change can be hard to come by.

But with proper rehabilitation and lots of support, both can return home and find success.

Watch the pond turtles and their keepers mark the end of their recovery in this short video from the Oregon Zoo.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via The BC Cancer Foundation

Testicular cancer typically affects men between the ages of 16 and 44 and is the most common solid tumor to occur in men of this age group. These tumors grow rapidly and can double in size in just 10 to 30 days.

The disease is potentially fatal if not discovered early and accounts for about 11%-13% of all cancer deaths of men between the ages of 15-35. An estimated 9,60 people were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2020, resulting in around 440 deaths.

So it's incredibly important for people with testicles to check themselves regularly.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.