Major Research Tools


Indexes the literature of geology, including journals, books, conference proceedings, maps, and USGS reports.

Data, Gateway

Coverage: 1790 to 2010

The National Historical Geographic Information System provides, free of charge, aggregate census data and historically accurate GIS-compatible boundary files for the United States between 1790 and 2010. Users must register to download data.

Data, Gateway, Visual resource

Coverage: US Census 1790-2010; American Community Survey 2005-2012; and others.

User-friendly tool for locating and downloading US Census data and other demographic resources. Social Explorer is also an online tool for creating maps with this data for export as image files.

Data, Gateway

Coverage: 1990 to present

Download digital maps covering a variety of US Census demographic categories for general reference purposes. GIS data in vector boundary files for spatial aggregations of tabular census data at all levels of the census hierarchy.

Gateway, Visual resource

The National Atlas provides geospatial information from the federal government. Printable Maps allows users to download complete maps covering a variety of themes. Map Maker is an online tool with which users can create custom maps at the city/town, county, or state level using select social, economic and geographic data. After the customized map is created online, users may download it in an image file.

Other Suggested Research Tools


From the US Census Bureau, this site offers current data on people, housing, business and government in tabular form (importable to GIS or statistical software) or as ready-made thematic maps. Sources include the American Community Survey, the Decennial Census of Population and Housing, and the Economic Census.


"Presents in maps and text complete data about the creation and all subsequent changes (dated to the day) in the size, shape, and location of every county in the fifty United States and the District of Columbia." Available as interactive maps and shapefiles that can be downloaded for use with GIS software.


Create and save maps illustrating over 60 socioeconomic indicators on people, jobs, agriculture and other county data. Sources include the American Community Survey, economic reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the latest Census of Agriculture. You may also download your data into a spreadsheet for use in Excel or other statistical software.

Data, Gateway

A center within Columbia University's Earth Institute, CIESIN provides an extensive gateway to data and other information focusing on human interactions in the environment.  Provides a topic search as well as subject access to spatial and tabular data sets held by CIESIN or hosted on its web site. 

Data, Full-text, Gateway

Resources for integrating GIS into the social sciences. Includes materials on methods, tools, techniques, software, data access, and more.

From the EPA, map various types of environmental information, including air releases, drinking water, toxic releases, hazardous wastes, water discharge permits and Superfund sites. See also TOXMAP, from the National Library of Medicine.


Create and save maps illustrating 168 indicators on the food environment covering food choices, health and well-being, and community characteristics in U.S. states or counties. Indicators include store/restaurant proximity, food prices, and food and nutrition assistance programs. Data is drawn from numerous sources including the Decennial Census, County Business Patterns, and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Full-text, Index

Full-text of scholarly journals in geology integrated with GeoRef, an index of geological literature.


Launched by the Federal Geographic Data Committee, the Geospatial Platform provides access to federally maintained and trusted geospatial data, services, and applications for sharing and use.


Contains data from the 1790-1960 U.S. Housing and Population censuses. Browse by state/county or by topic, produce tables, and/or create ratios. Also includes "Map it" feature which generates interactive maps at the national, state, or county levels.

Data, Visual resource

A source for free vector and raster data including cultural and physical features as well as elevation and bathymetric basemaps.


From GeoLytics, the NCDB offers normalized Census Tract data from 1970 - 2000 for all urban areas of the country. One can generate custom reports and maps within the NCDB. Files are easily imported into GIS software or other statistical packages for analysis.

Visual resource

A free, open source, editable map of the world. Users can choose various layers, add notes, and share or export the maps they create.

Data, Gateway

PA's official public access clearinghouse for geospatial data. Includes access to aerial photographs (DOQQs), soils data, and more. Try the easy to use "Pennsylvania Imagery Navigator" for quick access to imagery and raster data including topographic maps.

Visual resource

Coverage: 1937-1942, 1967-1972

Collection of historical aerial photos produced by the predecessor to the U.S. Farm Service Agency, and hosted by the Pennsylvania Geological Survey.

Visual resource

Digitized maps of towns or cities in Pennsylvania originally created for use by fire insurance companies. Maps are drawn to a scale of 50 feet to an inch; list street blocks and building numbers; and are coded for building materials used. For color versions of those maps that are no longer under copyright, see the collection hosted by Penn State's map library.

Data, Gateway

The United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) geospatial data and maps website. Use the TNM Download Client a map interface for discovering and downloading geospatial data.

Data, Gateway

Download zipped geospatial data files from the National Atlas in both shapefile and KML formats. Coverage includes a wide variety of cultural and natural features.