Meet 2023 Raskin Scholar Alexis Garretson

Jun 20, 2023 | News

Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) has awarded the 2023 Robert G. Raskin Scholarship to Alexis Garretson, a graduate student at Tufts University and The Jackson Laboratory as well as a data scientist for Anecdata.org. The scholarship is given annually to an outstanding student who helps bridge disciplines through Earth science data and computing.

Garretson’s research in evolutionary biology is an example of the cross-disciplinary skills it takes to study ecosystem data.

The Raskin Scholarship is an annual award made by ESIP to a current graduate student in the Earth or computer sciences who has an interest in community evolution of Earth science data systems. The scholarship is named for longtime ESIP member Robert G. Raskin, and seeks to promote collaboration, research support and exposure for talented students in the Earth or computer sciences.

The 2023 Raskin Scholar is Alexis Garretson from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) at Tufts University where she studies evolutionary biology. Garretson also supports Anecdata.org, a regular contributor to the ESIP Data Help Desk

“The connections between Earth science and genomics lie in their shared goal of understanding and unraveling complex systems,” Garretson said, explaining that combining multidisciplinary expertise with high-performance computing offers deeper insights into the interplay between environmental factors and genetic variations and leads to a better understanding of how ecosystems function, evolve and respond to environmental changes. Garretson added, “ESIP is a place for these critical cross-disciplinary collaborations and provides invaluable support to trainees as we find our place in the information science community.”

What I do: Repurpose neglected data to investigate how communities change over time, using a combination of genomics and Earth science methods.

Why I do it: Because I believe we have a responsibility to the public to maximize data use to understand the natural world and our place in it.

Alexis Garretson

2023 Raskin Scholar

Smiling woman with glasses and long hair along with the ESIP logo and "2023 Raskin Scholar, Alexis Garretson"
Alexis Garretson is a graduate student at Tufts University and is the 2023 recipient of the Robert G. Raskin Scholarship from ESIP.

Raskin Scholarship

Through the Robert G. Raskin Scholarship, ESIP remembers Rob Raskin and his dedication to support the next generation of Earth science data and technology leaders. Learn more about the scholarship at esipfed.org/raskin

Welcome our 2023 Raskin Scholar.

In 2018 and 2019, Garretson served as a Community Fellow in ESIP, supporting the Data Stewardship Committee and Research Object Citation Cluster. 

“Taking part in the Community Fellow program introduced me to so many facets of open science and fueled my commitment to ensuring that valuable data is not lost and is made available for synthesis research and analysis,” Garretson said. “The guidance and input from ESIP mentors and community members played a crucial role in my decision to pursue a PhD focused on computational sciences.”

As a doctoral candidate in GSBS’s Mammalian Genetics @ JAX program, she conducts research at The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), an independent, nonprofit biomedical research organization with a mission to discover precise genomic solutions for disease and empower the biomedical community in the shared quest to improve human health. JAX Associate Professor Beth Dumont advises Garretson’s doctoral research.

“Alexis is the full package: she’s a talented writer and oral communicator; has strong analytical and programming skills; and is incredibly hard-working, productive and scientifically imaginative,” said Dumont, who is also an assistant professor in GSBS. “To boot, she is incredibly generous with her time, providing instruction and advice in data science to junior colleagues and peers. It is both a joy and privilege to serve as her PhD thesis advisor, and I have enjoyed learning alongside her as she makes inroads toward her thesis project aims. Alexis is clearly poised to have a very bright future in science, and I’m excited that a Raskin award is now part of her success story!”

Garretson lives Raskin's legacy.

Mentoring is an important part of Robert Raskin’s legacy. Along with two other students at GSBS, Garretson founded the Tufts Computational Biology Club, a student-led organization dedicated to providing computational and data science resources to students across all GSBS’s campuses.

Additionally, Garretson serves as a data scientist for the citizen science website Anecdata.org, which is a project of MDI Bio Lab’s Community Health Laboratory. Garretson helped bring Anecdata’s resources into major international public repositories, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Recent research publications used Anecdata to aid predictions on the global distribution of invasive plants and land use changes. Anecdata’s most singular quality, Garretson says, may be the variety of its subjects, which include endangered species and an array of under-studied taxa.

“Our citizen scientists have on-the-ground information about where those species are,” she said. “And in some cases, we're really increasing the number of records out there… Anecdata lets these data find a new life, even after the projects that were originally targeting the data collection might have closed or changed shape.”

Our Raskin Scholar presents at the ESIP Meeting.

At the ESIP Meeting in July, Garretson will present during a plenary session and awards ceremony. Throughout the summer, Garretson is completing a graduate internship with the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute, and plans to complete her graduate studies at Tufts University and The Jackson Laboratory in the next couple of years. As a Raskin Scholar, Garretson exemplifies interdisciplinary creativity: From mouse genomes to ecosystems to Earth systems, insightful computation can come from discovering new details in old data.

This blog was written by Allison Mills from ESIP with additions from Fred Bever from MDIBL, Alex Israel from GSBS at Tufts University and Cara McDonough from The Jackson Laboratory. Edits were provided by Megan Carter from ESIP with proofing from Alex Israel from GSBS at Tufts University.

ESIP stands for Earth Science Information Partners and is a community of partner organizations and volunteers. We work together to meet environmental data challenges and look for opportunities to expand, improve, and innovate across Earth science disciplines.

Learn more esipfed.org/get-involved and sign up for the weekly ESIP Update for #EarthScienceData events, funding, webinars and ESIP announcements.