Samantha Hays

Meet a Lucerna author: Samantha N. Hays

Samantha N. Hays’ essay, “Failing the Fight: The Historical Context of US Environmental Conservation and How Endangered Species are Mismanaged in the Current Legislature,” appears in the new volume of Lucerna available at

For more about Samantha’s work, keep reading.

What is your Lucerna project about?

My project evaluates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 and related national environmental standards by creating a historical timeline of large-scale protective measures to assess their impact on the species and systems they were created to protect. After almost fifty years of working under the ESA, can we honestly reflect on it and other legislative standards and say we have done our very best to conserve environmental diversity? How should we proceed?

Why are you interested in this topic?

I became interested in this topic after taking a conservation course with Dr. Aaron Reed in the School of Biological Sciences. While earning my Bachelor of Science in Biology, I often had to memorize internal environmental and physiological systems and processes, but I never much reflected on how outside systems like American politics play a pivotal role in the modern conservation movement. This class really opened my eyes, and I recommend it highly to others.

What have been the benefits and challenges of this project?

This was a very lengthy undertaking. I did not know when I began this project that the style of reporting under the ESA by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service is very much based on “good-faith,” and therefore numerical tracking (especially of funds) is confusing at best. Additionally, combing through decades of expenditures and population tracking documents was very difficult when reporting measures can often be revised annually, making them hard to compare to one another. The benefit of this project is that at the very least, it aims to start a conversation. The public needs to be more aware of and invested in the legislation that protects lands and neighboring species.

What is your advice for students who are interested in publishing their work in Lucerna?

You have nothing to lose by trying. The team of editors and staff that assists in the publication process for Lucerna is composed of incredibly gifted and supportive folks. They are amazing to work with and have nothing but passion for the process. You will be delighted to work with them as you prepare your project for publication.

What are your professional plans or goals?

After finishing my Bachelor of Science in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry, I enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at UMKC in Fall 2020. I have one more year in that program, and then I hope to attend medical school following my graduation. I am really grateful for the opportunity to explore this topic through my Honors College thesis and publication in Lucerna, as it fits so well within my scope of study, but without the inspiration I am not sure I would have become so invested in the subject of environmental legislature and policy reform. It really impacts us as individuals on all levels.