Mar 25, 2024

5 Questions: ClimateCheck Head of Data & Risk Visualization Annie Preston

Data | by Alexandra Jones, Contributing Writer | 1 Minutes

ClimateCheck Head of Data & Risk Visualization Annie Preston leverages her interdisciplinary background to translate climate risk data into actionable form for our clients. Her work spans the entire climate risk reporting process, from modeling the initial queries to refining data to designing reports that communicate this essential information in clear, easy-to-read images and visuals clients can use to inform key decisions and protect their portfolios from climate-related physical and financial risk. Preston earned her PhD in computer science from University of California Davis where she focused her research on visualization techniques for transparency in science-based decision making. She also holds a double bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from Haverford College.

ClimateCheck: What was your background before joining ClimateCheck?

ClimateCheck Head of Data & Risk Visualization Annie Preston: My background includes a mix of physical sciences, data science and computer science. My journey in building this skillset started at Haverford College, where I worked on computational astrophysics research projects. I learned that I enjoy the problem solving of programming and working with big datasets, so in graduate school I pivoted to studying computer science with a focus on data visualization. Computer science is a really hands-on field that allows for collaboration with a wide range of disciplines and practitioners. As a doctoral student in computer science at UC Davis, I researched how to create visualization software that improves science-based decision making, including for wildfire management and public communication of air quality risk.

ClimateCheck: How did you end up working in the climate risk data space?

Preston: As I completed my doctoral work at UC Davis, I looked for opportunities to meaningfully apply my skills. ClimateCheck was a compelling opportunity because it allowed me to leverage my expertise at the intersection of environmental data and computer science to work with clients looking to ground their investment decisions in physical reality. Climate-driven extreme weather and disasters are causing increasingly costly damage — to property, to communities, and to people. As the real estate sector starts to incorporate climate risk data into decision making, stakeholders ranging from property owners to lenders have an opportunity to choose resilience. Awareness of climate risks like wildfires, flooding, extreme heat and severe storms can also help spur greater action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the extent of climate change.

ClimateCheck: What do you do as Head of Data & Risk Visualization at ClimateCheck?

Preston: I work on every step of the data analysis and communication process, from vetting and selecting our data, to analyzing and mapping datasets, to determining how we design reports that translate data into meaningful insights for our end users. As part of selecting data, my colleague Dr. Max Stiefel and I consult with scientific advisors like Dr. Daniel Swain (UCLA) and Dr. John Abatzoglou (UC Merced) to identify the best data and models to serve our analysis. We work to continuously update our data sources to include the latest highly-vetted data and models from government and academic sources. My work also includes granular details like managing the logistics of storing our data and writing the software that queries our database for insights ranging from climate risk to individual parcels to risk across entire portfolios.

ClimateCheck: How do you interact with ClimateCheck’s clients?

Preston: I’ll often meet with clients before we process their requests to better understand their needs, and then meet with them again after we generate the reports to go over key insights. At ClimateCheck we set ourselves apart by taking a collaborative approach with our clients and being responsive to their inquiries.

ClimateCheck: What is your favorite thing about your work at ClimateCheck?

Preston: I wanted to work on a product that uses data transparently and ethically, and my role at ClimateChange allows me to do that. I particularly enjoy designing our software and programming maps that display physical risk data. I find it satisfying to translate something from a theoretical model into knowledge our clients can put to use. I care a lot about helping others understand the risks posed by climate change, so they can prepare for inevitable changes as well as take action to reduce emissions and ensure a more favorable climate future.

Looking to incorporate climate into your risk assessments?