Library:HSS GIS How To Find Data

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GIS Data at UBC Library

UBC Library has a data server called Abacus that houses GIS and statistical datasets for use by UBC students, faculty and staff for educational purposes. Information on accessing GIS data on the Abacus server can be found on the Abacus tab of the GIS Research Guide.

Web Searches

Many GIS data files can be freely downloaded from Canadian and American government agency websites. Each website usually has a search box to search internal web pages, so this is a good place to start.

Whether searching Google or agency websites, adding terms such as GIS and shapefile to your search can help. Be aware that common terms (such as rivers, roads, boundaries or data) may produce many irrelevant results. Technical terms such as hydrography may produce better results. Use quotation marks around phrases, such as "land use", "aerial photograph" or "GIS data". That should limit the results to websites with those words adjacent to each other.

Also, to limit your searches to government websites, use "site:" followed by the government's domain name without any space after the colon. For example, to search only BC government websites, add to your search terms.

Data Clearinghouses and Portals

Data Clearinghouses are websites where you can directly download GIS data. Sometimes these require registration, and some have fees to download large or licensed datasets. But many offer GIS data for free. Provincial, state and federal governments in Canada and the US typically have clearinghouses for much of their data. Some non-profit organizations have also created clearinghouses. An example would be Natural Resources Canada's data clearinghouse, GeoGratis.

Data Portals are websites that provide links to other websites containing GIS data, including data clearinghouses. The UBC Geomatics website has a data portal with links to websites with GIS data frequently requested by UBC students and researchers.

Links to Online GIS Data

You can find a list of data clearinghouses and other websites with GIS data on the UBC Geomatics website.