On Finding Spatial Data

The challenges in searching for spatial data are similar to finding data generally - mainly, the personalized nature of data needs in terms of topic, temporal/geographic coverage, scale, and other attributes. To get started, you can reference our finding spatial data workshop. Play this interactive game to assess the data you find. (You can also follow this "Garbage in, Garbage out" data checklist for an in-depth review)

For Smith and MacLeish Field Station data, check out the SAL's Open Data Portal. For Massachusetts, MssGIS. Globally, open data of the world


Source Description Access Geographic/Temporal Coverage
USGS Earth Explorer Longest collection of satellite/UAV imagery, air photos, from Landsat and other sensors (MODIS, ASTER, VIIRS) Free Mostly US/1970s-present
LandViewer   Free; high-resolution for purchase Miscellaneous global
ESA Copernicus Open Access Hub From active Sentinels; 

  • Sentinel 1 - radar
  • Sentinel 2 - optical multispectral
  • Sentinel 3 - land products for environmental monitoring
  • Sentinel 5P - atmosphere/air quality
NASA Earthdata Search NASA earth observation data including atmosphere, environment, ocean, land, ice, and topography Free Global
Remote Pixel Datasets from Landsat 8, Sentinel 2, and CBERS-4 Free Landsat; need AWS account for Sentinel and CBERS  
INPE Image Catalog Collection from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research Free; FTP download link sent via email South & Central America, Africa
DigitalGlobe's Open Data Program High resolution commercial imagery for disaster response Need to apply Global
Planet's Education & Research High resolution commercial imagery available based on research proposal Need to apply Global
NOS Multilens Airphoto Collection 1930s-1960s multilens photos of US coastlines Free  
Training datasets for computer vision & deep learning Aerial and satellite imagery with annotations for instance segmentation, object detection, semantic segmentation, scene classification, and other Free  
Geonadir FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable) drone data for at risk ecosystems; features SAL's Belize projects Free Global

Global Vector Data – Land

Source Description
Esri's Living Atlas of the World Curated authoritative datasets from Esri
DIVA-GIS Free spatial data for countries
OpenStreetMap Free crowdsourced vector data of the world
UN Environmental Programme Data Explorer Authoritative statistics and spatial datasets used by UNEP for themes such as population, freshwater, forests, emissions, climate, health, GDP
Georeferencing of Ethnic Groups Polygons of global ethnic groups
Natural Earth Vector and raster data for cartography
CShapes Historical state boundaries post-WWII
SEDAC  US human-environmental interaction data
Global Administrative Boundaries Administrative boundaries for countries and subdivisions
World Resources Institute GIS data for human and environmental dimensions such as poverty, tourism, agriculture, land...etc.
Atlas of Urban Expansion Geographic and quantitative changes related to urban expansion, such as city boundaries and land cover
Worldpop Population distribution and composition for Central, South America, Africa, and Asia
Open Data for Resilience Index Managed by the Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI); data that address vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change
Road Networks
OpenHistoricalMap Global historical map data
The Paleobiology Database Public paleontological data that includes spatial data

Global Vector Data – Sea

Source Description
OpenSeaMap OpenStreetMap for the oceans
Marine Regions Global marine database
Global Fishing Watch Global datasets of AIS-based fishing activity


Source Description The US government's open data
National Map Viewer  
US Census Bureau  
IPUMS NHGIS National historical census and boundaries data (1790-present)
By federal agencies  

Historical Map Collection

Source Description
Digitized & Described Indigenous Heritage Content We Are Here: Sharing Stories contains Indigenous-related (First Nations, Inuit and the M├ętis Nation) collection items in Library and Archives Canada's holdings 
Online Guide to US Map Collections Crowdsourced directory of map collections of various sizes
Old Maps Online Portal for historical maps from five US and European map libraries, including the David Rumsey Map Collection (Stanford University), the British Library
David Rumsey Map Collection More than 150,000 rare 16th c. - 21st c. cartographic products including maps, atlases, globes...etc. at the Stanford Library
Library of Congress  
Norman B. Leventhal Map Collection Collection at the Boston Public Library
topoView Current and historical topographic maps from USGS
Sanborn fire insurance maps 1867-1970  
MapFly University of Padua's geothematic and historical map collections