Lemurs and Big Data

Duke’s Lemur Center used to be called the Duke University Primate Center. It’s been around so long the place has changed its name. The center was founded in 1966 and since then has been home to almost 4200 individuals.

As scientists are supposed to do, there have been meticulous records kept on all of those creatures. The release of all that data to the public is not only a gold mine for scientists, it also highlights a new area of science called data science.

That’s right, data science. And as you might guess, a researcher who works in the field is called a data scientist.

Data science is the study of the extraction of knowledge from data. Some people might call it number crunching. Data scientists are skilled in a variety of fields, including mathematics, probability models, statistics, and computer programming, just to name a few.

Most of the time, data scientists work with large amounts of data. That’s the case with all of the information released by the Duke Lemur Center. Data scientists use techniques and theories from many fields to do their work. The goal is to analyze and interpret rich and large data sources, merge the data to identify the patterns, build the models to understand the data, and then communicate the findings.

Because the world is becoming more and more data driven, data scientists are now found in many disciplines including biology, medicine, the social sciences and humanities. Data science is also a big driver of economics, business and finance, as companies interpret data to better understand consumer behavior.

- Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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