Meet Mama Duck: Emily Wilkins ‘14.5

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In case you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t have Internet access or anything that brings happiness, you probably have heard that the roped off piece of Scili Desert was in fact housing a duck and her eleven baby ducklings (see above for cuteness overload). You also might have happened upon a Facebook page purportedly run by the Scili Duck herself. It has over 2,200 likes, and its updates have been quite something:

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The Scili Duck Facebook page — along with its subjects — has been a welcome respite from a tough finals period. The page and BlogDailyHerald has had some online interaction in the days leading up to the ducklings’ birth, and we wanted to discover which social media genius was behind it.

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Though the ProJo totally got to her first, we also sat down with Emily Wilkins ‘14.5 to talk about the insane amount of work that went into her wall-to-wall coverage of the Scili Duck and her babies. Wilkins became inspired to document the every movement of the Scili Duck after a tough week of work. In the middle of a problem set, while staring at a bunch of malted milk balls that resembled eggs, she started the page as a way to procrastinate. Call it divine inspiration. At the time, her expectations were low: “I thought it was going to be me and 20 other people who wanted to look at a duck.”

The events that followed could not have been foreseen by anyone, including Wilkins. With each witty, self-aware status update, the page’s followers increased. President Paxson and the local news got in on it. On their way to the Scili for a depressing round of finals studying, students would stop and take a break at the yellow caution tape that Facilities had so generously helped set up. The duck had become a celebrity. Wilkins believes that the page’s popularity had a lot to do with the time of year: “Finals period is hard. People need something to focus their energy on in a positive way.”

The page really blew up when the eggs finally hatched early in the morning of May 7. When all 11 ducklings slowly emerged from under their mother, local news went full Anchorman and showed up alongside University photographers, while we at BlogDH thought the royal baby had been born again. Thanks to extensive research and help from Sarah Taylor in the Biology Department, Wilkins knew the mother duck would be leading the newborns to water the next day. At this point, she felt kind of like a mom herself: “I kind of got emotionally attached.” She set up shop outside the nest to make sure she could safely guide them to the water in case they left before sunrise. There was a risk of the ducks getting hit by cars or falling into storm drains on the way to their destination.

Luckily, the ducks decided to head out at a relatively civilized hour, and the press was there to cover it. Along with other Brown students, Wilkins followed the band down College Hill to their father/mate: “We didn’t know where she was going, because we can’t speak duck,” but Papa Duck was waiting by the river when his family arrived. Nature is awesome.

With that, the ducks were on their way. Though Wilkins doesn’t “think of [her]self as an animal savior,” she does have a record of helping out those in need. One year, a bird crashed into her window, and she found a sanctuary for it. During the fall, she took in a cat named Pumpkin for a few months. I think Emily might have found herself a calling. “I think we should make tanks of the ducklings walking out of the Van Wickle Gates in honor of graduation,” she said. Someone get on this.

Images via and via.

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