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Posts Tagged ‘data portals’

The Top 10 Most Useful Geospatial Data Portals, Revisited

February 18, 2019 7 comments

We have been writing this geospatial data column for 7 years now, beginning when our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, was published.  Over those years, in addition to keeping issues such as data quality, copyright, privacy, and fee vs. free at the forefront of the conversation, we have tested and reviewed many geospatial data portals.  Some of these portals promise more than they deliver, some have been frustrating, but many have been extremely valuable in GIS work.  Back in 2017 we listed 10 of those that we have found most useful, rich with content, easy to use, and with metadata that is available and understandable.  A few are no longer functioning, and a few have emerged that merit inclusion in the top 10 list.  In creating such a list, we realize that “most useful” really depends on the application that one is using GIS for, but the list below should be useful for GIS users across many disciplines. Some allow for data to be streamed from web servers into your GIS software, and all allow data to be downloaded.

  1. The Open Data portal based on ArcGIS Hub technology.   This portal’s simple “what” and “where” interface is the entry point to a vast, curated, and growing list of valuable open data sites, along with a helpful story map described here.
  2. The Esri Living Atlas of the World is an expanding, curated set of data and maps on thousands of topics that can be used and also contributed to by the GIS community.
  3. The European Space Agency’s Sentinel Online data portal includes a wide variety of image-related data sets on the five themes of land, marine, atmosphere, emergency, and security.
  4. CIESIN at Columbia University has been serving data for over 20 years on climate, population, soil, econonics, land use, biodiversity, and other themes, including its Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).
  5. The Atlas of the Biosphere serves global data, largely in grid format, of human impact, land use, ecosystems, and water resources themes.
  6. Natural Earth is a public domain dataset at small scale (1:10,000,000, 1:50,000,000, and 1:110,000,000) for the globe, in vector and raster formats that are easily ingestible in GIS software.
  7. The World Resources Institute hosts a variety of data geospatial data sets for specific areas of the world, such as Kenya and Uganda.
  8. The FAO GeoNetwork.  This portal contains global to regional scale data from administrative  boundaries and agriculture to soils, population, land use, and water resources.
  9. OpenTopography.   This NSF data facility from UC San Diego focuses on “Earth science-related, research-grade, topography and bathymetry data”, including a mountain-load of Lidar data.
  10. Many “lists of data sites” have appeared over the years.  Most are not kept up to date and end up being less useful over time.  However, those that are still quite helpful that we have reviewed are Dr Karen Payne’s list from the University of Georgia, and Robin Wilson’s list of free spatial data.  A few others that are useful are this list from the USGS that I started back when I worked at that organization, and this list from Stanford University.

A few others “almost make the top 10” :  The National Map from the USGS, data.gov from the US Government (though I am still frustrated that they removed the zebra mussels data that I used to access all the time), environmental and population data from TerraPopulusDiva-GIS’s data layers for each country, the UNEP Environmental Data Explorer, the NEO site at NASA Earth Observations, and OpenStreetMap (which besides roads, also includes buildings, land use, railroads, and, waterways)

For more details on any of these resources, search the Spatial Reserves blog for our reviews, remain diligent about being critical of the data you are considering using, and as always, we welcome your feedback.

lidar

Working with Lidar data obtained from the USGS National Map data portal. 

–Joseph Kerski

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Global Land Cover Facility goes offline

January 7, 2019 Leave a comment

The world of geospatial data portals is dynamic; new sites appear and others disappear.  Sites are shut down due to the end of a funding period, changes in technologies, or as a result of mission or personnel changes. One of the earliest and most useful sites particularly for remotely sensed imagery recently went off-line–the Global Land Cover Facility from the University of Maryland.  Their notice said, “The GLCF has had a very good run since 1997! Originally it was funded under NASA’s Earth Science Information Partnership (under the inspired leadership of Martha Maiden of NASA). Subsequently it was maintained to support our NASA-funded research activities especially those concerned with Landsat data.   We feel we have attained what we wanted to accomplish, and now it’s time for us to move on and explorer other ventures. The data and services provided by GLCF are now mostly available via government agencies, especially USGS and NASA.”

To expand on the last note above, what should you, the GIS user who loves imagery, do?  For the time being, the GLCF data are still on a no-graphics FTP site, here:  ftp://ftp.glcf.umd.edu/.   But better yet, we have examined numerous functioning imagery portals on this blog; start here.  These include, for example, LandViewer, EOS Data Analytics, NASA AVIRIS, the GeoPortal, Lidar from USGS, DevelopmentSeed, Sentinel-2, and many others.

glcf

Thank you, GLCF!  You provided a wonderful service, and will be missed. 

–Joseph Kerski

Finding data via ArcGIS Hubs around the world

December 24, 2018 5 comments

To date, over 10,000 open data sites have been published by governments all over the world using ArcGIS Hub technology, as described here.  I recently wrote about how to use the ArcGIS Hub open data portal to search for and find geospatial data.  This story map is another way to find data, because it lists and provides access to some of these hubs.  The story map shows 1,500 sites created in 2017, so while only a fraction of the total, the map provides an excellent way to browse and find spatial data.  I used it recently to easily find transportation spatial data in Victoria, Australia, for example, for the purpose of constructing a GIS lesson around.

Equally important as accessing the data is that the story map raises the important point that the open spatial data movement is more than just about sharing data.  As we have written about extensively in this blog, the open spatial data movement is a reflection of the transformation that GIS is bringing in the way government, private, and nonprofit organizations work.  This increased collaboration between departments and engagement with citizens is a long-term and oft-difficult effort, but is resulting in increased efficiency, and yes, in data access for all.

Try this story map as a way to discover spatial data, particularly by region, and I think you will find it to be a useful tool.  For more information and background on ArcGIS Hub, see this essay by my colleague Andrew Turner.

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Hubs around the world story map.  This map provides a description and access to dozens of data sets served via ArcGIS Hub portal technology.

A Review of the Gap Analysis Program’s Protected Areas Data Portal

March 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Today’s guest blog essay comes from Linda Zellmer, Government Information & Data Services Librarian, Western Illinois University.  Linda can be contacted at LR-Zellmer @ wiu.edu.

Several years ago, I worked with a class in our Recreation, Parks and Tourism Administration department. The students in the class were getting their first exposure to GIS, and used it to analyze the populations served by a park to develop a plan for managing and expanding its services. At the time, students had to obtain geospatial data on park locations and boundaries from local or state government agencies or download Federal lands data from the National Atlas of the United States. Then they combined the park boundary data with data from the Census Bureau to learn about the population characteristics of the people in the area. Finally, they visited the park of interest to get information on park usage and amenities. A new data set, the Protected Areas Database of the United States (PAD-US) will make this class and related research much easier, because it provides data on all types of protected areas for either the entire United States, a U.S. Region, by landscape region, or by US State or Territory.  PAD-US data is available for downloading, viewing and as a web map service from the PAD-US website.

The PAD-US data was developed as part of the Gap Analysis Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. The Gap program collects data on land cover, species distribution and stewardship to determine whether a given species’ habitat is protected, so that plans for further protection (if needed) can be developed. According to the PAD-US Standards and Methods Manual for Data Stewards, the data set contains geospatial data on “marine and terrestrial protected areas” that are “dedicated to the preservation of biological diversity and to other natural, recreation and cultural uses.” The data set contains geospatial data showing the extent and location of Federal, State, Local and private lands set aside for recreation and conservation. It also provides information on the owner name and type, whether the site is publicly accessible, and information on whether the site is being managed for conservation.

 

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The Gap Analysis Program’s Protected Areas of the US Data Portal.

Geospatial Librarians and the GeoBlacklight Data Portal

March 12, 2017 2 comments

The position of spatial data librarian is not commonplace at universities, but it is growing. I have met at least 10 new librarians in this position over the past several years.  The small but expert and energetic group of spatial data librarians has been making headway in several key innovative projects germane to the themes of this blog and our book.  These include the creation of useful data portals, moving the digital humanities field forward, and coordinating data production, dissemination, and use–not only between departments on their own campuses, but between universities, government agencies, industry, and nonprofit organizations.  A group of these spatial data librarians recently met at a “Geo4Lib” camp, for example, and among other topics, explored a solution called GeoBlacklight to host geospatial data.

One group from Colorado is considering the use of GeoBlacklight tools to host a statewide Colorado GIS data portal.  Colorado is sorely in need of such a portal as Colorado has no curated and supported statewide data organization or portal as exists in Texas with TNRIS or Montana with NRIS, for example.  To see GeoBlacklight in action, see Stanford University’s instance of it here, led by my colleague Stace Maples.

Try the Stanford University instance of GeoBlacklight.  What are your reactions to its usefulness, as a geospatial data professional?  Do you have a geospatial data librarian at your local or regional university?  What can the GIS community do to advocate that universities hire such staffpersons in the library?

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EarthWorks:  Stanford University Libraries geospatial data portal; the university’s instance of GeoBlacklight.

 

A Review of the Texas Natural Resources Information Systems Data Portal

February 12, 2017 3 comments

In this blog and in our book, we have reviewed many geospatial data portals.  One of the oldest and yet most useful of all regional or state portals is that of the Texas Natural Resources Information System, or TNRIS.  Indeed, TNRIS predated digital spatial data, for it was founded in 1968, housing paper topographic and geologic maps and aerial photographs for years before hosting digital spatial data.  TNRIS allows searches by county or by data theme.  If one zooms in on a the statewide map with county boundaries, the familiar USGS 7.5-minute grid is displayed, from which one can download such data as digital raster graphics, elevation, wetlands, geology, and historical and current satellite imagery.  Statewide themes include bathymetry, land cover, soils, census data, transportation, and many others.  Metadata is not only available but it is conveniently packaged, and the site doesn’t burden the data user with needless frills and fancy ways to download–it is, in my view, what a data portal should be–with the ability to quickly go in and get what one needs, in a variety of formats.

As GIS technologies have evolved, the TNRIS portal has evolved as well.  One of the most innovative and useful sections of their site is its online mapping services.  Here, high resolution imagery (30 cm in many places), land cover, and other themes are hosted as ArcGIS services and OGC WMS services.  The site conveniently enables the data user to preview the services on their website or to copy the URL for the service so that it may be used in ArcGIS Online.  Therefore, not everything from TNRIS needs to be downloaded–a growing amount can be streamed.

Texas is an excellent location for other useful data portals as well:  The General Land Office hosts data on habitat, minerals, oil and gas, and other themes.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality hosts data on air and water quality, toxic hazards, and other layers.  Texas Parks and Wildlife hosts data on bays, ecosystems, trails, and wildlife management areas.  And other gems exist, such as the railroads and other data hosted by Entergy on the Texas Site Selection Center.

tnris

A section of the Texas Natural Resources Information Systems geospatial data portal.

A Top 10 List of Useful Geospatial Data Portals

January 29, 2017 7 comments

We have been writing this geospatial data column since 2012, when our book The GIS Guide to Public Domain Data, was published.  Over the 5 years that have elapsed, in addition to keeping issues such as data quality, copyright, privacy, and fee vs. free at the forefront of the conversation, we have tested and reviewed many geospatial data portals.  Some of these portals promise more than they deliver, some have been frustrating, but some have been extremely valuable in GIS work.  We have decided to list 10 of those that we have found most useful, rich with content, easy to use, and with metadata that is available and understandable.  In considering such a list, we realize that “most useful” really depends on the application that one is using GIS for, but the following sites should be useful for users in many disciplines. Some allow for data to be streamed from web servers into your GIS software, and all allow data to be downloaded.

  1.  The FAO GeoNetwork.  This portal contains global to regional scale data from administrative  boundaries and agriculture to soils, population, land use, and water resources.
  2.  The Esri Living Atlas of the World is an expanding, curated set of data and maps on thousands of topics that can be used and also contributed to by the GIS community.
  3. The European Space Agency’s Sentinel Online data portal includes a wide variety of image-related data sets on the five themes of land, marine, atmosphere, emergency, and security.
  4. CIESIN at Columbia University has been serving data for over 20 years on climate, population, soil, econonics, land use, biodiversity, and other themes, including its Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC).
  5. The Global Land Cover Facility at the University of Maryland remains one of the best and easiest to use sources and methods to obtain Landsat, MODIS, Aster, SRTM, and other satellite imagery.
  6. The Atlas of the Biosphere serves global data, largely in grid format, of human impact, land use, ecosystems, and water resources themes.
  7. Natural Earth is a public domain dataset at small scale (1:10,000,000, 1:50,000,000, and 1:110,000,000) for the globe, in vector and raster formats that are easily ingestible in GIS software.
  8. The World Resources Institute hosts a variety of data geospatial data sets for specific areas of the world, such as Kenya and Uganda.
  9. The GIS Data Depot from the GeoCommunity is one of the oldest data depositories, dating back to the 1990s, but still very useful for international and USA specific data on such themes as elevation, transportation, imagery, scanned topographic maps, and hydrography, many of which have been re-served from more-difficult-to-use government sites.
  10. There have been many “lists of data sites” over the years, and these invariably are not kept up to date and end up being less useful over time.  However, those that are still quite helpful that we have reviewed are Dr Karen Payne’s list from the University of Georgia, and Robin Wilson’s list of free spatial data.  A few others that are useful are this list from the USGS that I started back when I worked there, and this list from Stanford University.

A few selected others are also useful that “almost make the top 10” above are  The National Map from the USGS, data.gov from the US Government, environmental and population data from TerraPopulus, Diva-GIS’s data layers for each country, the UNEP Environmental Data Explorer, the NEO site at NASA Earth Observations, and OpenStreetMap.

For more details on any of these resources, search the Spatial Reserves blog for our reviews, remain diligent about being critical of the data you are considering using, and as always, we welcome your feedback.

landsat8_1

A Top 10 List of Useful Geospatial Data Portals.