January 2017
NotesNote from the Executive Director

This past month at the Estuarium, I was lucky enough to take part in a K-12 group tour. The cute jellyfish pictured above are drawings kids made on our predation tank during the field trip. They were a very knowledgeable bunch, enthusiastic about learning and checking out our exhibits.

During the tour, I taught them about water quality, pollution sources, and ways they can help protect our estuaries. It was an amazing group that inspired me to make a 2017 resolution to ensure more children can come visit the Estuarium and make amazing discoveries about the Puget Sound.

Help us make our new year's resolution a reality! For those who haven't made a tax deductible gift this holiday season, it's not too late. Please keep us in mind at the end of the year and visit

As part of our winter fundraising campaign, we received a very generous donation in memory of Bob Vadas' aunt and uncle Mary Lou & Bob Giles of New Jersey, who loved the ocean and its shorelines. We cannot thank Bob and his family enough for their generosity this season as it will help us to ensure programs like Meet the Beach and Pier Peer continue to connect community members to our estuaries.

In this edition, we report on our Turn of the Tides festival,  share an incredible story about "Pumpkin," an anemone in our predation tank, and review SSEA programs.

Don't forget to swing by the Estuarium after the new year as it will be Jellyfish January - these invertebrates are amazing creatures; don't miss your chance to learn all about them!

From all of us at the South Sound Estuary Association, happy holidays and a very happy new year!  
In This Issue
EventsUpcoming Events

SSEA Events 
  • January 1st-31st: Jellyfish January at the Estuarium
  • January 6th, 6 PM: Pier Peer at
    Boston Harbor Marina
  • January 19th, 7:00: Discovery Speaker Series at LOTT WET Science Center
Upcoming Events
  • January 7th, 10 AM-12 PM:  Streamteam Life of Bugs Talk, LOTT WET Science Center
  • January 1st, 12 PM: Polar Bear Plunge Enjoy campfires, music, hot cocoa and coffee - culminating with the "plunge" at 1 PM. Or stay warm and dry on shore and cheer on the swimmers! All ages welcome. Long Lake Park, 2790 Carpenter Rd SE Lacey, WA 98503.
  • January 16th: The Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is a way to transform Dr. King's life and teachings into community service that helps empower and strengthen local communities. There are so many ways to participate in Thurston County!
  • January 21st, 11:30 AM-2 PM: Egg Mass Identification Field Training Learn how to identify amphibian egg masses in the wild. 1919 Road Sixty-Five, Olympia. Contact Michelle at for more information on how to register.
TOTTurn of the Tides

In December, we celebrate the winter solstice which marks the day with the shortest period of daylight, the longest night of the year, and an increase of daily tidal ranges. Amidst a backdrop of snowflakes, jellyfish, and great company, the Estuarium welcomed over 200 people to learn about marine and estuary life.

Our wonderful non-profit partners which participated included LOTT Wet Science Center, Nisqually Reach Nature Center, OlyEcosystems, the Pacific Shellfish Institute, and Nisqually Land Trust. We learned about water quality, fish seine science, wildlife corridors, salmon recovery, Blue Heron habitat, and shellfish. We also participated in fun activities like making a pine cone bird feeder and constructing a stuffed salmon.

SSEA announced the winner of our SSEA Stories completion, Elli Rowley. This amazing 12 year old read her story out loud to a packed audience. If you missed it, you can read it online by clicking HERE. Entertainment included great music from Pinniped, hilarious improv comedy by Fools Play, and a reading by Nikki McClure of her book, Waiting for High Tide.

If you didn't make it this year, you can always stop by the Estuarium and check out all the d├ęcor. The snowflakes and jellyfish are still up for Jellyfish January!
PumpkinThe Story of Pumpkin: The Incredible Resilient Anemone
by Taisha McFall, Estuarium Manager

As the Estuarium Manager, it is my duty to care for all of our fantastic live animal ambassadors. This includes responsibilities such as feeding the animals, cleaning their habitats, and observing their behavior for any changes that might indicate something is wrong.

For instance, our very beautiful bright orange giant plumose anemone, nick-named Pumpkin, has been recovering from some damage inflicted by a cranky crab last year. I've been monitoring Pumpkin's health for the past seven months or so. Recovery has been a slow process, with Pumpkin spending the vast majority of its time tightly closed up and very rarely opening its mouth enough to catch any food. With the help of our volunteers, I've been hand-feeding Pumpkin plankton and other tiny food items in an effort to ensure it was getting the nutrients it needed to heal.

On December 5th, I arrived at the Estuarium to discover that Pumpkin had finally made a full recovery and was traveling to another area of the tank to find a better spot to catch their own food! I was so excited that I cheered out loud! Go Pumpkin!

Then, I began my other tasks for the day, and several hours later went to check on Pumpkin's progress. To my absolute horror, I discovered that Pumpkin had been swept by a current into one of our carnivorous painted anemones, Steve, and was being eaten alive! There was nothing I could do to save Pumpkin at that point, and I actually began to cry. Even though Pumpkin was only an invertebrate without arms and legs, or a face, or even a brain, I was truly attached to it. I loved seeing Pumpkin get better and better day after day. Brokenhearted, I left Pumpkin to its fate .

On December 7th, I arrived at the Estuarium and began checking all the animals like usual. I'd been keeping an eye on Steve, the painted anemone that had consumed Pumpkin, because I didn't know if Pumpkin might make Steve sick. Anemones are very strange little animals, and sometimes they fight and kill each other. I wanted to be sure that Pumpkin's remains weren't harming Steve. Steve appeared to be healthy and was brightly colored and catching food like normal. Next to Steve, however, was a big gross-looking pellet of anemone poop, with undigested parts of Pumpkin inside.

As a citizen scientist, I was curious to know what exactly had happened to Pumpkin, so I removed the pellet to dissect it (I know, I know - scientists are sometime weird and do odd things in the name of discovery). After removing the pellet-membrane, I found that most of Pumpkin hadn't been digested at all. In fact, Pumpkin seemed to be mostly intact. I decided to put the pellet back in the aquarium (far away from Steve, of course) to see what would happen. Anemones are very good at reproducing, and sometimes a piece of an anemone's body will grow into a whole new anemone. Maybe I would arrive at work the next day to see several new Pumpkins!

When I arrived to work the next morning, I was shocked. I was amazed. Pumpkin was perfectly fine and looked better than ever. It was attached to a rock, tall, full-bodied, and actively catching food to eat. This time I both cheered out loud and cried! What a roller-coaster of emotions Pumpkin had put me through!

I feel so fortunate to be the one to care for these animals and to share this story with you, our SSEA supporters. I'm always learning something new at the Estuarium, and telling others about what I've learned brings me so much joy. I couldn't ask for a better job than that!

P.S. Come by during Estuarium open hours and say "hi" to Pumpkin, Steve, and all our other animal ambassadors!

Program Updates


Most of us are aware that the Moon's orbit around the Earth affects the flow of the ocean tides somehow, but did you know that the Sun also affects the tides, as well as ocean topography, gravity, climate change, the seasons, and so much more?

Throughout December, The Estuarium focused on hands-on activities illustrating how tides work, and how understanding the tides can help us understand our place on Earth and in the cosmos! If you would like to know more about how tides work and why they are important, stop by Saturday (New Year's Eve) during our open hours for our last day of Turn of the Tides December, before we begin Jellyfish January (our exploration into the world of jellyfish, corals, and anemones), on New Year's Day.

Speaking of anemones, have you read the amazing story about our resilient plumose anemone, Pumpkin? Check it out in this newsletter above!

If you would like to schedule a field trip, birthday party, or private tour of the Estuarium, please email for more information or submit a group inquiry form.

PierPeerPier Peer

Join us for our first Pier Peer of the year on January 6th at 6PM! You can register by clicking HERE. If you have a group (scouts, friends, family reunion, etc.) who you think would enjoy a fun evening discovering the underwater world of Puget Sound, you can schedule your own private Pier Peer event. Please email for more information and to request a group inquiry form.
Explore * Connect * Inspire

South Sound Estuary Association (SSEA) was founded to create opportunities for the public to learn about estuaries, geology, natural and cultural history, marine life, and human impact on the Puget Sound (the biggest estuary in the United States by volume and second largest in the United States by shoreline).

Our mission is to foster learning opportunities that inspire people of all ages to connect with, protect, and enjoy the unique estuary environment of the Puget Sound. 

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and are supported by donations from caring individuals like you. Please help us continue our work by donating today. You can donate by clicking on the Paypal button below, mailing your check to: South Sound Estuary Association PO Box 2182, Olympia, WA 98507, or visiting our website at

SupportersOur Supporters

We are grateful to have the support of our major donors, sponsors, and partners. Support these local businesses & partners. They support SSEA! 
  • Bob Vadas
  • Daniel Knoetke- providing carpentry for The Estuarium
  • LOTT's WET Science Center - Discovery Speaker Series partner
  • Boston Harbor Marina - our Pier Peer partner
  • TSS Digital Services - providing Internet and phone services to the Estuarium
  • Jason Quam, Blue Coral - aquarium maintenance
  • William Thomas, Aquariums W - aquarium maintenance
  • Kevin Gordham - SSEA the Sound
  • Nancy Lapointe, Navigate Financial Services - SSEA the Sound
  • Curry In A Hurry- providing support through advertising
  • 5th Avenue Sandwich Co. - donation of refreshments for Turn of the Tides