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Who let the dogs out?: Data science students learn by helping Jax Humane Society

If you’ve ever wondered where the animals at the Jacksonville Humane Society came in from, Dr. Daniel Moseley’s Data Science Foundations students probably have an answer for you. 

In a partnership with the Geography department and professors Dr. Ashley Johnson and Dr. Ray Oldakowski, Dr. Moseley is bringing Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping to his data students and giving them a way to apply their skills to a real-world example.

He had five students working on the project in the fall and has 11 this spring.

“Many times when people say working on “real world” problems, it can often just mean going from a theoretical framework to an applied one, but often there’s no connection to where the data is coming from,” Dr. Moseley said. “To get this going, I reached out to Lyndsay Layendecker, Director of Community Partnerships at the Jacksonville Humane Society, who is a former educator herself, and she posed some questions and gave us some data.”

The data science students looked at where heartworms were most prevalent in stray intakes, where the most kittens were being born or what parts of the city yielded the most stray animal intakes.

Students are utilizing tools within the Python program including Pandas, Numpy and Seaborn. Others are using their skills to pull together data visualizations, such as the one below, which shows the zip codes with the highest stray dog intakes. 

The students aren’t just using the data to sharpen their skills. They’re also helping the Humane Society evaluate the effectiveness of its stray-hold policy. When they know where the strays are coming from most often, the Humane Society can allocate resources accordingly. 

“The intent is to help Jax Humane leverage the data they collect to make data-informed decisions,” Moseley said. 

It’s not the first time Jacksonville University has lent a hand to the Jacksonville Humane Society. It’s a key location for the annual Charter Day of community service, held every year in April to honor the day JU was chartered. 

Linda Berry Stein, the namesake for the Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts and Humanities, lends a hand along with a group of “Steiners”: students who received scholarships made possible by Linda and David Stein.

The Steins are also avid supporters of the Jacksonville Humane Society.

On April 14, Stein and the Steiners will be helping out at the Humane Society again as part of Charter Day 2022.