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Be Aware of Where during Geography Awareness Week and GIS Day

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We offer you a heaping helping of geography and GIS education and info. Enjoy!




Public Domain.


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Hello and welcome. You're listening to the USGS CoreCast episode 19 for Wednesday, November 14, 2007. I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. This week, November 11-17th, is Geography Awareness Week, so I'm here to give a big heaping dose of all things geographic. Well, okay...maybe not ALL things, but at least a nice overview of USGS geography and geographic products. Now, I've been looking forward to today's episode for quite some time. I've been with the USGS now going on about 7 years, most of which as a Geographer. So believe it or not, I actually know a thing or two about what I'm talking about. But enough about me...let's talk about Geography Awareness Week.

Since 1987, every third week in November is recognized as Geography Awareness Week. It was started by the National Geographic Society. Geography Awareness Week is a week-long celebration; it's aimed at promoting geographic understanding and education in our schools and communities. The main source for information is located at [that's one word: mywonderfulworld]. If you head over to the website, they have links for information about the geography awareness campaign, they have news and highlights, there's a test for your Global IQ, and then some other games and cool stuff. This year's event is being sponsored by National Geographic and about 2 dozen other organizations.

Another major component of Geography Awareness Week is GIS Day; which is actually today, Wednesday. For those who don't know, GIS, is Geographic Information Systems, and it's a pretty powerful tool used by many people to map and analyze geographic data. It's sort of become the poster child of geography over the last few years. So it makes sense that it gets its own special day this week. In fact, not only does it have its own day, but GIS Day even has its own website at Quoting from the website, "GIS Day provides an international forum for users of geographic information systems technology to demonstrate real-world applications that are making a difference in our society. More than 80 countries will participate in holding local events such as corporate open houses, hands-on workshops, community expos, school assemblies, and more." So check their website, and you might be able to find something happening near you. Some of the organizations that make GIS day a reality include, once again, National Geographic, as well as the Association of American Geographers, University Consortium for Geographic Information Science, the Library of Congress, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, ESRI and the USGS, among others.

Now building from that segue, we thought it would be interesting to highlight some resources that the USGS has regarding geography and GIS data. For those educators and students out there, one of the best places to start if you are looking for useful USGS maps, is the USGS Education Website...that's at You can navigate through that website to find the USGS Map Catalog, or you can go directly to it at There you'll find the catalog of several hundred useful USGS maps, they're organized by different themes including: topography, geology, physics, earthquakes, etc.

If you're a GIS professional and are looking to acquire data from the USGS, you have quite a few good options. I'm just going to highlight 2 for you. First is the National Map, which can be accessed at [that's one word: nationalmap]. The national map is an interactive website where you can design and print your own map, as well as download data to use in other GIS applications. The interface includes elevation, hydrography, transportation systems, structures, orthoimagery, and other stuff. Data is downloadable for free, as long as you work in increments with file sizes less than about 100 megabits.

The other option is the National Atlas. The National Atlas can be viewed at [one word]. The atlas is a free, interactive website similar to the national map. The resolution is probably a bit coarser, most of the data is usually on a national scale or some of them are on a state scale. So, you're not going to have high resolution, it's going to be a broader scope. There are 10s to 100s of data sets available. The data is sorted by agriculture, biology, climate, history, water, and some other things. So go check out that website if you looking for a national-level dataset.

If those sites don't satisfy you, there's always more, namely the Geospatial One-Stop Portal, that's This GIS portal is a centralized location for most Federal agencies for their GIS data. So if you're researching or looking for data about atmosphere, health and disease, utilities, communications, demographics other federal datasets that are not USGS, you can actually find them there as well.

For those listeners who are familiar with Google Earth, the USGS offers an assortment KML files that can be viewed with Google Earth. Some of the more popular ones are actually from the Earthquake Hazards Program website; these include a Real-time Earthquake map, a virtual tour of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and a Quaternary Faults and Folds in the U.S. You can check the show notes to get the direct file locations for those.

Now I'd imagine I'd probably get some flack from other USGS geographers if I didn't at least mention the 2, I guess I'll call, major datasets that the USGS puts out. Those include the NED, which is the National Elevation Dataset. It's basically your 1:24,000 DEMs that are usually in 10 meter or 30 meter resolution. So people who do topographic or slope studies or anything like that, or who work with elevation models, that's usually from the NED. The other one is the NHD, which is the National Hydrography Dataset. This is a comprehensive data set that includes features such as lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, springs and wells across the U.S. There is also a revised version of this, which is called NHDplus. And that incorporates the NHD, plus the National Elevation Datasets, the National Land Cover Datasets, and the Watershed Boundary Dataset. You can link to those from our show notes, as well.

If you are of the older generation and don't like dealing with digital data, the USGS still has your back because we still offer the opportunity to purchase paper copies. So if you want a map or another document you can just go to either the Maps, Imagery and Publications website at or the

Now I can continue and go on and on with the plethora of USGS digital data resources or other locations to purchase geographic data products. But instead, I'm going to let the curious folks who are still listening to just check out our show notes. Head over to the CoreCast homepage and click on today's episode's show notes link. And check out and see what data is available.

Well, I think that covers as much Geography as any normal person would be interested in. So go forth and spread the word, bring geography to the masses. Because if it wasn't for geographers, no one would know where their going or where they've been. That does it for today. As always, you can reach us here at the USGS CoreCast by emailing at Don't forget to subscribe, we appreciate your support.

The CoreCast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. Until next time, I'm Steve Sobieszczyk. Rock on!


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Sites of Interest


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Musical credit:

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Musical credit: "Elec_guit_cleanfunk_riff6", Soundgram Post.



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