Alexis Garretson wearing waders in a pond, holding a squirt bottle. Photo provided by Alexis Garretson
Alexis Garretson wearing waders in a pond, holding a squirt bottle. Photo provided by Alexis Garretson

Alexis Garretson is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow working on her master’s in Evolutionary Biology at George Mason University. Her research focuses on improving access and usability of historical and citizen science data in long-term ecological and biological studies. She serves as the Data Stewardship Community Fellow for the Earth Science Information Partners, an Environmental Data research associate with the Mohonk Preserve, and is an American Alpine Club researcher. She also teaches foundational coding and data management skills as an instructor with The Carpentries and develops university bioinformatics curriculum materials. This fall, she will begin her Ph.D. in Genetics through the joint program at Tufts University and The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?

Franklin the Fish, after Rosalind Franklin of course

4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?


5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

Spanish and Arabic

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?

Open a bookstore with a bakery and coffee shop

9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?


10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

Rabat, Morocco

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?

To fly

12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Go for a hike

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

iNaturalist, a usable kitchen, RStudio

15 What beverage gives you life?


16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

17 What did you want to be when you grew up?

A mermaid

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

The opportunity to explore something or somewhere new

19 What got you excited in science?

Finding sea cucumbers in tide pools as a kid

20 What excites you about science now?

The way that open data and community science are reducing the barriers to entry

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Airport mystery novels

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I was a free diver when I was a teen

23 What is your favorite game?

The Settlers of Catan

24 What is the last book you read?

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Just apply (for that job, that grant, that graduate program) – the worst they can say is no

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Stand up comedy

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

It’s ok to quit sometimes

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

A face mask and a bubble bath

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Kim’s Convenience on Netflix

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

A live moth

31 What is your favorite animal?

American eel

32 What is your favorite book?

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

Buttermilk waffles

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

February 1st (my birthday)

35 What is your favorite plant?

Ghost plant (Monotropa uniflora)

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Glass eels (baby eels) are worth more per ounce than gold on the black market.

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Baking bread

39 What is your favorite sound?

Birdsong outside in the morning

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

My ability to persevere and problem solve in challenging situations

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?


42 What is your proudest moment?

Receiving the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

43 What kind of tree would you be?

Paper birch

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

It has a porch that I can sit out on to drink coffee in the morning

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

For a semester, I lived on site at a National Zoo facility alongside cheetahs, clouded leopards, and maned wolves.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

Van Truong @scientistvan