Celebrate opening of marine center’s new location

The South Sound Estuary Association wants the public to join the Saturday celebration of the group’s new marine life discovery center.

The association is holding a grand opening event as the South Sound Estuarium reopens at its new location in downtown Olympia, 309 State Ave. The event will run from 2-5 p.m. Saturday.

The free family-friendly event will include music, food and interactive science exhibits.

“This is a larger and more visible location for us in downtown Olympia,” said Diana Larsen-Mills, the association’s acting executive director.

“The South Sound Estuarium is dedicated to the citizens, young and old, of our community where all ages, residents and visitors, can learn to appreciate the estuary environment of South Puget Sound,” she said. “It’s a place where we connect with the dazzling variety of life — fragile and yet incredibly vibrant — that is our unique legacy.”

The new location, at 1,350 square feet, is almost twice as large as its first location at 608 Washington St. NE.

The center has a new 125-gallon aquarium to go along with the two existing 55-gallon aquariums.

The aquariums hold a variety of marine animals from intertidal and subtidal environments in South Puget Sound. Visitors will be able to see creatures such as sea stars, crabs, shrimp, anemones, sea cucumbers, chitons and stickleback fish. Visitors can try to identify animals on their own, watch the feedings and more.

“We have lots of interesting creatures in the tanks. I personally think the nudibranch is amazing,” Larsen-Mills said. A nudibranch is a soft-bodied mollusk that sheds its shell to reveal vivid colors.

The new space also has classroom and lab.

The estuarium also has a number of preserved specimens on loan from the late David Jamison and the state Department of Ecology. The items include a shark eyeball and a giant Pacific octopus.

Other exhibits include videos, the “Web of Life” hands-on exhibit, microscopes and interpretive exhibits on a number of topics centered on the ecology, geology, restoration efforts and recreation opportunities in the South Sound.

In addition to the discovery center, the association also runs its “Meet us on the Beach” naturalist program during the summer and nighttime pier peer programs at Boston Harbor Marina.

“This new space is the next step toward our goal of an aquarium, marine life discovery center on Olympia’s waterfront,” Larsen-Mills said.