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


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, ASU senior advancement officer and former TNC staffer, reached out to TNC about the potential of ASU Law summer interns supporting efforts to reintroduce the endangered Hawaiian hawk into its native habitat, specifically into TNC’s Kona Hema Preserve located on the Island of Hawaiʻi. The interns selected, Stephanie Deskins and Danika Marzillier, talk about the value of the work they were able to do remotely, thanks to the TNC’s leadership support.

Photo of Danika Marzillier

ASU Law 2L Danika Marzillier


"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 ASU Law 2L 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 ASU Law 3L Deskins. “We had a lot of fun learning this summer and making a difference in Hawai’i."

photo of Stephanie Deskins

ASU Law 3L Stephanie Deskins

TNC Senior Attorney Melinda Ching, along with Shalan Crysdale, Hawai’i 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 Hawai’i 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 safeguard 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.”

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 Hawai’i 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 Hawai’i, The Dorrance Family Foundation established the Dorrance Hawai’i Innovation Fund with a gift to ASU that supports ASU investment and partnerships in Hawai’i.