OTTAWA -- When COVID-19 put a pause on activities, it had a ripple effect; but one 12-year-old Ottawa boy made sure the shutdown didn’t ruffle any feathers.

Liam McMullen has been named a "Wetland Hero" by Ducks Unlimited for his efforts at the Bill Mason and MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre this past spring. 

He’s the first in the Ottawa area to earn the recognition this year, according to Mariane Bolla with Ducks Unlimited.

“Liam stepped up and offered his help to the wetland centre in Ottawa. A Wetland Hero is a very special person, a youth who has taken an action, big or small, that helps conserve wetlands and the wildlife that use wetlands,” Bolla said.

McMullen cleaned out and documented duck nest boxes over the spring. The boxes house ducks and give them a place to lay eggs.

“The boxes are to shelter the wood ducks; so basically, their house,” explains McMullen.

He had a bit of help from his dad. The two brought a ladder to help them clean, document, and repair the boxes. An important task that had to be done in the spring, according to Liam’s dad Bill McMullen. 

“If we didn’t clean it out, they wouldn’t have a chance to use them, so we’d be kind of looking at no young ducklings,” he said.

Liam McMullen and father

It’s something that’s normally done by high school students, but when COVID-19 put a halt on school activities, the duo stepped in.

The boxes are installed at the MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre. It’s more than just a wetland; school groups of Kindergarten to Grade-12 visit the facility to learn about the outdoors and the eco system. 

Duck nesting box

“The outdoor education centre gives them an opportunity to get outside; they might have the opportunity to connect something they have been learning in the classroom with the natural environment,” says Juwain St. John, Program Site Administrator.

St. John thinks what Liam did is great.

“We’re really proud of Liam, that he stepped up and he is being involved in this environmental cause.”

And what’s Liam think of earning the recognition of Wetland Hero from Ducks Unlimited?

“Pretty exciting.”