Friday, November 30, 2012

Conserving Birds One Painting at a Time

Magpie Jay (left) and Toucan (right) in Costa Rica

A couple weeks ago Olivia Bouler, who wrote and illustrated Olivia’s Birds, visited Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It was the opening of an exhibit of her bird paintings – similar to those she painted to raise $200,000 for bird rescue operations following the BP Deep Horizon oil spill – and it was an opportunity for kids to hear Olivia talk about bird conservation.

Olivia was 11 years old the year oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. She worried that the oil spill would harm the Brown Pelicans that were nesting at that time, and wanted to do something to help birds. So Olivia decided to use her art to save the birds.
Olivia & brother Jackson & puffins

“I promised to make 500 drawings for people who donated money to the Audubon Society for helping the birds,” she said. She figured she’d raise a couple hundred dollars; instead she raised $200,000.

“People want to help, but they don’t know how,” Olivia says. She encourages kids – adults, too – to use their talents to help protect the planet. “Everyone can do something,” says Olivia. “Find your cause and use your talents; the quality of our world depends on you.”

For Olivia, “doing something” means continuing to share her love of birds through her art. “They have personalities, you know,” she says of the birds in her backyard. Her paintings – and her book – have made Olivia a bird ambassador, and she’s traveled across the US and to Costa Rica to talk about the need to conserve bird habitat. Last year the Audubon Society named her an “artist inspiring conservation”.

Olivia draws a chickadee at Cornell Lab of Ornithology
This year Olivia’s busy with earth science, math, English and everything else a typical eighth-grader does. In her free time she’s busy developing a board game … a cross between Sorry, CandyLand with dice and lots of chance cards that should be out soon. 

"So where do you want to be in a few years?" I ask. "Here," she says. "At Cornell. Studying birds, of course!"

There's a review of Olivia’s Birds over at STEM Friday. Check what Olivia’s doing on facebook..