kirana ’21 uses data to tell climate stories

Yuke Kirana ‘21 received her BA from Wesleyan in environmental studies and earth & environmental sciences.  She is currently working as a data analyst at the Systems Change Lab at World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research nonprofit partnering with the Bezos Earth Funds and funded by the GEF Foundation, focusing on seven key areas relating to natural resources: food, forests, water, energy, cities, climate, and ocean. 

Yuke’s interest in environmental studies began in high school, when she worked on a plastic waste reduction project as a student in Jakarta, Indonesia. “That project exposed me to the complexity of environmental issues,” says Yuke. “And it piqued my interest to learn more about the complex system that influences and shapes environmental initiatives.”

During her time at Wesleyan, Yuke took courses across ENVS and E&ES and worked as a research assistant with Helen Poulos, distinguished associate professor of E&ES and ENVS, which is where she discovered her interest in data science.

“Working with Helen exposed me to the field of data analysis,” says Yuke. “I was able to see the patterns, from a very big-picture perspective, through data, and then come up with different interpretations—like a story, basically,” she says. “Working with Helen was my first experience where I could really see how important storytelling is when explaining climate issues.” 

Yuke’s interest in data and research culminated in a COE summer fellowship and her senior thesis on the impacts of landscape water stress and land use on wildfires in Indonesia, a project that also provided her with the opportunity to work with GIS systems and remote sensing data.

After successfully completing an internship with WRI, Yuke is now working full-time as a data analyst for WRI’s Systems Change Lab, where she supports the collection, processing, analysis, and data-sharing partnerships of key stakeholders of the lab’s monitoring platform. Yuke’s work helps to capture and understand the critical progress of global major economic systems in order to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and shift to nature-positive development. Her days revolve around collecting and processing data from different sources about topics  from the circular economy to food and agriculture. While the work can sometimes be stressful, due to the breadth of material she works with, Yuke’s focus is to find new ways to make the data analysis process more efficient.

Looking back at her Wesleyan experience, Yuke is particularly grateful for the relationships she formed with professors Poulos and Barry Chernoff and the opportunities she had to work in various research positions as an undergrad student. Yuke’s advice for current and future Bailey COE students: “Take advantage of opportunities to form meaningful relationships with faculty. ENVS is such an interdisciplinary field, with faculty from across the university. Building relationships will help you navigate all the different branches of study and, hopefully, find your niche!”