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Dr. Ryan Clegg Watkins

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Research Scientist

Currently resides in MO
rclegg-watkins [at]

Targets: Asteroids, Moon
Disciplines/Techniques: Education/Public Outreach (EPO), Geology, Mineralogy, Photometry, Remote sensing, Volcanism
Missions: LRO
Mission Roles: Mission science team

Research Interests

Dr. Ryan Watkins' (Clegg) research interests include using photometry to understand physical and compositional properties of planetary surfaces, and integrating planetary data sets to assess landing site safety hazards for future missions. She has used Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images to study the effects of rocket exhaust on lunar soil reflectance properties and to place compositional constraints on regions of non-mare volcanism on the Moon. She has been studying rocket exhaust effects at the Apollo, Luna, Surveyor, and Chang'e-3 landing sites, with applications for planning for future missions to the lunar surface.  She couples NAC photometry with Hapke photometric modeling to test variable parameters that depend on soil properties and composition and uses laboratory reflectance data as ground truth for remote sensing observations. Her current research involves conducting boulder distribution analyses at spacecraft landing sites and around craters of known age in order to assess landing site safety hazards and to determine boulder erosion rates on the Moon. She is also involved in integrating multiple lunar datasets to quantify the differences between mare and cryptomare in the lunar South Pole Aitken Basin and to conduct landing site safety analyses for future lunar missions.

In addition to research, Dr. Watkins is heavily involved in STEM outreach in her local community (St. Louis, MO). She is available for speaking engagements and workshops, please email her if interested.

Professional History

After experience as a student intern at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Kennedy Space Center, Dr. Watkins earned a PhD in Earth and Planetary Science from Washington University in St. Louis, graduating in 2015. Her dissertation was "Photometric Investigations of Lunar Landing Sites and Silicic Regions using LRO Narrow Angle Camera Images." Before joining PSI as a Research Scientist, she served as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. Bradley Jolliff.

Mission experience: Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Team, MoonRise Student Collaboration Project

EPO: Lunar and Planetary Institute High School Research Team Mentor, Science in St. Louis guest speaker, NASA Student Ambassador 

Honors and Awards

Lunar and Planetary Institute Career Development Award (2015)

Best Graduate Student Paper – ASCE Earth and Space Conference (2012)

McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences Graduate Fellowship recipient (2010 – 2015)

NASA Student Ambassador, Cohort 1 (2008 – present)

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