On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
At her home in Islip, Long Island, New York, Olivia Bouler, the 11-year-old daughter of James, an architect and Auburn University alumnus, and Nadine, an educator, reportedly wept when she heard the news. As an aspiring ornithologist, she was heartbroken by the resulting devastation to natural bird habitats along the coastline from Louisiana to Alabama where her grandparents and Auburn alumni, James M. and Jane Bouler, live.
Olivia quickly turned her grief into motivation and used her artistic talent, love for birds, and selfless spirit to aid wildlife recovery efforts. Inspired by her hero, James Audubon, she contacted the National Audubon Society and offered to sell her bird illustrations to those who supported her “Save the Gulf” campaign.
Throughout the summer, Olivia drew and donated 500 original drawings and thousands of limited edition prints. Moreover, AOL became her partner, giving $25,000 to Audubon in Olivia’s name and setting her up with an AOL Artists Page. The successful effort generated more than $200,000 for organizations devoted to wildlife recovery in the Gulf region. In addition, Olivia became a celebrity, garnering the attention of numerous national media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, The Today Show, CBS Evening News, People magazine, and USA Today.
More than a year later at age 12, Olivia is using her fame to continue crusading on behalf of animal and environmental causes along the Gulf Coast and around the world. On the one-year anniversary of the oil spill, Sterling’s Publishing released Olivia’s Birds, a collection of Olivia’s drawings, with sales supporting the National Audubon Society’s conservation efforts.
Olivia has been the recipient of several awards and honors, including the National Audubon Society’s Audubon Artist Inspiring Conservation Award and the Dale Earnhart Legends of Leadership Award. The White House named her a Champion of Change and New York Congressman Steve Israel honored her as a Hometown Hero. As a member of the Auburn Family who has achieved distinction at an early age, the College of Human Sciences is pleased to recognize Olivia Bouler with the inaugural Youth in Action Humanitarian Award. She serves as a role model for her generation and an inspiration to us all.
It has been more than three years since Olivia Bouler’s reaction to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill thrust the young lady into the national spotlight, but her passion for birds and drawing is as strong as ever. Her drawings can be seen on her Facebook page, Save the Gulf: Olivia’s Bird Illustrations. She can also be followed on Twitter, @BirdgirlLiv. Olivia is a contributor to the Huffington Post teen site.