"I just wanted to help out," Olivia Bouler said. "So I came up with this idea."
Olivia, an 11-year-old Long Island native, spent a lot of time near the Gulf growing up, watching birds near her grandparents' home in Alabama. Although both of her parents share an interest in environmental issues -- her dad works as a green architect -- Olivia's fascination with birds stems from within.
"I just always loved watching them," Olivia said. Some of her favorites include the Great Blue Heron and the Red-tailed Hawk. "I also love Blue Jays and Cardinals, the birds I see near my house in Long Island."
Olivia was devastated by the 2010 BP oil spill in the region. The circulating photos of the Brown Pelicans in the region and stories from her grandparents made her feel helpless. "I knew it was nesting season and birds wouldn't leave their chicks no matter what," Olivia said.
Immediately, Olivia wrote a letter to the Audobon society offering her humble services:
Dear Audubon Society:
As you all are aware of, the oil spill in the Gulf is devistating (sic). My mom has already donated a lot of money to help, but I have an idea that may also help. I am a decent drawer, and I was wondering if I could sell some bird paintings and give the profits to your organization.
Olivia decided she would draw 500 birds, and anyone who donated money to the wildlife recovery efforts in the Gulf would get an original drawing. To her amazement, the drawings sold out within three weeks. Soon, she had to switch to prints.
Media outlets began covering Olivia's efforts and more donations started coming in. Soon, Olivia had raised over $150,000 for the recovery effort, contributed to a new wildlife center at Moss Point, and been named 2010's Kid of the Year by the ASPCA.
Now she's written a book, Olivia's Birds, which she hopes inspires other young people to pay a bit more attention to her favorite flying species. It includes Olivia's illustrations, and some bird facts and conservation tips she hopes people will pay attention to.
The book has sent her on a tour across America, and landed her a book signing at Cornell -- the university she hopes to attend one day. "They have an amazing ornithology program," Olivia said. "It's all really exciting."
Next month, on a grant from Disney, Olivia will head to Costa Rica to talk to schoolchildren about birds and, hopefully, see some for herself. Best of all, she's inspiring her little brother, Jackson, who recently won an award of his own from his work with Project Puffin.
"He's obsessed with puffins, and he wears suits to school," Olivia said. "He's a really cool kid."