Olivia Bouler

by Betty Bailey

Fifteen-year-old Olivia Bouler knows all about the birds that live in the forest near her home in New York. "I love birds because they're so interesting," she said. "They are beautiful. They all have personalities. I think the reason that a lot of people have chosen birds as a symbol of the environment is because they have a sense of freedom. They can fly. They own the air." Growing up, she also made friends with birds and other animals on the beach, near her grandparents' home on the Gulf of Mexico. "The animals there were amazing," said Olivia. "The crabs that would pop out of a hole then scurry and pop back in, the sanderlings that would go and hunt after them, and the brown pelicans and a certain great blue heron, who I think has become one of my best friends."

In 2010, the lives and habitats of Olivia's best friends were put in danger, when 49.5 million barrels of oil began spilling into the gulf from the BP's offshore Deep Horizon well. The horrific spill contaminated more than 650 miles of gulf coastline. "When I first heard about the oil spill, you know, it broke my heart," Olivia said. "She knew immediately that the brown pelicans would be feeding their babies, that they would not leave their nests," said Olivia's mother Nadine Bouler. "I knew those birds were going to be affected and that some of them won't make it," said Olivia.

Olivia wanted desperately to help. A passionate artist, she decided to put her artistic talents to work for the cause and drafted a letter to the Audubon Society. "The letter basically said I will do 500 drawings," said Olivia. "For people who donate, they would get drawings and, who knows, maybe I'll raise $200 dollars." A couple of weeks later, donations started pouring in. "The drawings were called for in 3 weeks," she said. "It took me 3 months to finish them."

Then, news of her drawings hit the news and started a media whirlwind. "The guardian UK published an article saying school girl shames BP," said Nadine. From there, it went viral." Media outlets from around the world were picking up Olivia's story. She was featured in the Huffington Post, AOL, Belgian newspapers and Italian television, as well as mainstream media in the United States. At the end of the frenzy, the young artist's efforts had raised $200,000 for the Audubon bird rescue. "It was going crazy," said Olivia. "My mom was getting like 100 emails an hour. One-hundred-and-forty-four-million people saw my story in two months. It tells you that people want to help but they just don't' know how. That's why I think they need a role model like a youth to say, 'if a child can do it, so can I.' I can make a difference."

Olivia urged her parents to contact their federal representatives and to ask them to advocate for alternative energy sources and for birds. "Have you ever seen a solar panel break down and it ends a whole ecosystem, destroys a whole way of life for people and animals?" she asks. "Have you ever heard of a solar spill? You don't have to do what I did but everything that you do for our planet counts." Since then Olivia has written and illustrated the book Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf, in which she shares her knowledge of endangered species, as well as backyard birds. Some of the proceeds from the book benefit Audubon's clean up efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Page created on 8/7/2014 3:57:23 PM

Last edited 1/5/2017 9:46:43 PM

Related Links

MY HERO film Olivia's Birds - Olivia created 500 paintings of her feathered friends to raise funds for Audubon's bird rescue.
Olivia Bouler: Champions of Change - White House - Service Innovators
Young Bird Artist Amps Up Oil Spill Relief Efforts - Audubonmagazine.org
Olivia interviewed for the Cornell Blog of Ornithology - Cornell University

Author Info

The film Olivia's Birds is a finalist in the official selections of the 8th Annual MY HERO Film Festival.