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ASU Law partnership with The Nature Conservancy completes a successful first year

photo of the Kona Hema Preserve on the Island of Hawaii

Aerial photo courtesy of The Nature Conservancy of the Kona Hema Preserve on the island of Hawaii.

September 23, 2020

In its inaugural year, a partnership of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) gave two summer interns the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in Hawaii’s conservation efforts.

Funded by the Dorrance Family Foundation, the partnership began when Jody Kaulukukui, an ASU senior advancement officer and former TNC staffer, reached out to the conservancy about the potential of ASU Law summer interns supporting efforts to reintroduce the endangered Hawaiian crow into its native habitat, specifically into TNC’s Kona Hema Preserve located on the island of Hawaii. The interns selected, Stephanie Deskins and Danika Marzillier, spoke about the value of the work they were able to do remotely, thanks to the conservacy's leadership support.

"I originally went to law school to work on sustainability and conservation, so I am very excited to get the chance to work on a research project that very closely aligns with those goals and to see what goes into this from a legal perspective and not just from the scientific perspective,” said Marzillier.

"We learned so much this summer — about the Endangered Species Act, the different permitting processes and legal liabilities and how to work with different agencies and advocate for your client,” added Deskins. “We had a lot of fun learning this summer and making a difference in Hawaii."

headshot of

ASU Law 3L Stephanie Deskins

TNC senior attorney Melinda Ching, along with Shalan Crysdale, Hawaii island program director, and Trae Menard, director of forest conservation, were key in making the project possible and managing it remotely since the students couldn’t travel to Hawaii due to COVID-19.

”Danika and Stephanie played key roles in designing the path forward in reintroducing an iconic native bird back into its native habitat,” Ching stated. “Their research enabled TNC to negotiate with federal and state agencies to craft appropriate parameters and safeguards to protect TNC as well as fulfill the mutual conservation objectives of the collaborating parties. If Danika and Stephanie are any indication of the quality of ASU Law students, I’m excited about the prospect of continuing to collaborate with ASU Law in the future.”

headshot of ASU Law 3L Stephanie Deskins

ASU Law 2L Danika Marzillier

Based on the success of the project’s pilot year and proof that it can work well remotely, ASU Law is planning to continue its partnership with TNC Hawaii and possibly other TNC locations worldwide.

“I have really been excited about the research so far because it is interesting and aligns very closely with what I want to do, so I feel very lucky to have been able to have gotten a job where I can do something that I feel very passionate about,” said Marzillier.

With the intention of wanting to have a direct impact on Hawaii, the Dorrance Family Foundation established the Dorrance Hawaii Innovation Fund with a gift to ASU that supports ASU investment and partnerships in Hawaii.

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