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Biology alum earns law degree, lands job at leading conservation organization

Oct. 30, 2015

Amanda Prasuhn in graduation cap and gown and holding diploma

Amanda Prasuhn, B.S. ’12, received her JD degree from Stanford Law in June.

Amanda Prasuhn, B.S. ’12, has always been passionate about animals.

“If you look up my name in my fifth-grade yearbook, you’ll see I planned on trekking out into the bamboo forests of Asia to protect giant pandas from extinction,” she says.

Now, just months after completing her JD degree from Stanford Law, the MU alum has begun her career fighting for endangered and threatened animals.

Prasuhn landed a job as a Legal Fellow with the Center for Biological Diversity. Based out of Tucson, Ariz., the Center litigates on behalf of endangered species and wild places. According to its Web site, “the Center is the nation’s leader in preserving endangered species, having secured Endangered Species Act protection for hundreds of species and hundreds of millions of acres of land and water.”

The Kirkwood native’s legal career began, fittingly, in a lab that treks into forests in search of a giant animal — elephants. As an undergrad, Prasuhn conducted research in the lab of Dr. Lori Eggert, a molecular ecologist in the Division of Biological Sciences. Prasuhn analyzed DNA, extracted from elephant dung samples, to resolve whether savanna and forest elephants should be categorized as one or two species.

The research garnered Prasuhn a coveted Goldwater Scholarship her junior year. It also set her on a path in law.

“I enjoyed doing research, but over time I realized I was most interested in the elephants themselves and concerned about their preservation and how poaching affected them,” she recalls. “So I decided to do something more conservation-oriented, and I thought going to law school and becoming an attorney would be a better way, for me, to have an impact.”

After graduating with her B.S. degree in biological sciences in 2012, Prasuhn was accepted into Stanford Law School. There, she focused on environmental law and participated in Stanford’s Environmental Law Clinic. She also interned at the Center for Biological Diversity at their Oakland, Calif., office.

“It is probably my favorite environmental organization,” says Prasuhn. “It’s very progressive and believes in the intrinsic value of animals. They’re also not afraid to take things to court. I really like that.”

Prasuhn took the California Bar exam in July and started full-time as a legal fellow with the Center in September. She is currently working on cases related to the recent Refugio oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara and a proposed freeway project in Riverside County that threatens wildlife preserves.

Prasuhn says she still puts her scientific training to use everyday.

“A lot of what I read is scientific information about what a project might do to the air quality or the numbers of specific species and how it will effect them. My science background definitely makes it easier for me to search, read, and evaluate these documents. It’s also helpful when I’m writing something about why a proposed action or project will have a negative impact on the environment. I can back up a lot of things I’m saying with scientific evidence,” she says.

She says her advice to current biology students is to “explore your career paths and stick with what you’re passionate about.”

“A degree from Mizzou is helpful toward whatever you career you go on to,” she adds.

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Written by: Melody Kroll

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Alumni