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Finding GIS Data: Home

The AGS Library's Guide to Finding GIS Data for your project

Finding GIS Data

Welcome!

Finding GIS data for your projects or research can be a time consuming process.  Here at the AGS Library at UW-Milwaukee, we help our patrons discover geospatial data resources on a daily basis.  More data providers are making their data available online--we want to empower you to search, find, and use data on your own. 

Check out commonly requested themes in the list below to start exploring or look at the tabs at the top of this guide and click what sounds right for your project.

Still lost?  Request data directly from us, from our collection or elsewhere, with our data request form, visit our AGSL GeoData homepage, or e-mail us with your questions.

We're still building this guide and we're adding more data sources.  Pardon our mess and let us know if you have any suggestions!

What are people requesting from the AGSL?

Here's a word cloud of the most used words in data requests from 2014-2017.

Top 10 topics: Milwaukee, county, shapefile, city, census, Wisconsin, park, area, water, aerial
A word cloud showing some of the most popular data request topics.  Prevelant words are "Milwaukee", "Shapefile", "County", "ESRI".  There are smaller areas with common themes of data such as "bicycles" and "buildings".

Data Topics

Accident Data

For Milwaukee accident data, use our Finding GIS Data COMPASS Library Guide.

To find accident data for states or at the national level, check out Data.gov.

Addresses

For a Milwaukee County-wide addressable buildings layer, please fill out our Data Request Form

To download the Master Address Index (MAI) for the City of Milwaukee, please find the Map Milwaukee Portal - LibGuide.

To download standard municipal address point data by Wisconsin county, please find Geodata @ Wisconsin - LibGuide.

To download nationwide address shapefiles, please find the U.S. Census' TIGER Products - LibGuide.

To download world addresses, please find OpenAddresses

 

Aerial Imagery

To learn how to use aerial photography, satellite, and lidar data, and links to the best sources for downloading this data for free, visit our Finding GIS Data Aerial Imagery Homepage

For questions about the best way to obtain high-resolution local imagery, email us at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form

Bike Data

For comprehensive bike data for 2017 for the City of Milwaukee, please fill out our Data Request Form. 

To find accident data for states or at the national level, check out Data.gov.

Boundaries

There are many places to quickly download the boundaries you need. 

Most Wisconsin municipal boundaries can be found via GeoData@Wisconsin - Libguide.

For block, block group, tract, county, or state boundaries for any state for any census year, please find NHGIS census data download portal - Libguide.

For City of Milwaukee parcels, neighborhood, aldermanic and police district boundaries visit the Map Milwaukee Portal.

For boundaries of any country, state, province, etc. available at various resolutions for map-making visit Natural Earth - Libguide.

For any boundary data you do not see in this tab, send us an email at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form

Buildings

Buildings by county are available via GeoData@Wisconsin - Libguide.

Milwaukee County building and real estate data are available via MCAMLIS Data Download Portal - Libguide.

To look at property ownership and building use in the City of Milwaukee, please find MPROP - and our Libguide explaining how to download MPROP and interpret use codes.

To request other building data, please email us at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form.

To learn more about finding and working with built environment data, please visit our Built Environment Homepage.

Bus Data

The AGSL archives bus route and stop data for the Milwaukee County. To obtain, please fill out our Data Request Form.

Publicly-accessible public transit data wiki

Census Data

The AGSL wants you to feel confident finding and using social demographic data. 

To learn about using social demographic data, please visit our Social Demographic Data Homepage.

If you are using census data for GIS purposes, we recommend NHGIS - Libguide.

If you want to use the traditional U.S. Census website, please find American FactFinder - Libguide.

For a tutorial on how to use TIGER Products for census feature shapefiles and how to access large quantities of census geography, please find our TIGER Products Libguide.

For questions about how to find and use U.S. Census or American Community Survey (ACS) data please email us at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form.

Climate Data

To learn how to use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Dataset Gallery, please find their Climate Data Primer

Crime Data

For Milwaukee crime data, use our Finding GIS Data COMPASS Libguide.

To obtain crime data at the national level, please find Data.gov

National Archive of Criminal Justice Data

US City Open Data Census - Crime

Countries

To obtain shapefiles of countries at multiple resolutions for map-making, please find Natural Earth - Libguide.

Demographic and Population Data

Also see Census

To obtain information about population, race, sex, or any other demographic in the United States, you will want to turn to the U.S. census. 

To learn more, please find our Social Demographic Data Homepage.

We recommend the National Historic GIS (NHGIS) for finding census data to use with GIS - Libguide.

You can always use the official census website, American FactFinder - Libguide.

Public opinion polling data is available for download via the Pew Research Center

If you have any questions about finding or using demographic data, please do not hesitate to email us at gisdata@uwm.edu, or fill out our Data Request Form.

Election Data

Wisconsin election data is available for download via the Wisconsin State Legislature Open GIS Data Portal

For national election data, please find Data.gov

Please do not hesitate to contact us via email at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out the AGSL Data Request Form with any questions. 

Elevation

Elevation is usually represented in one of two ways in GIS.  The first is the familiar contour line.  Contour lines are the vector representation of elevation and use isolines to connect areas of the same elevation.  Contour lines follow a conour interval or the amount of elevation gained or lost in between lines.  Typically these range from 1ft to 10 ft.  Steeper slopes are represented by lines that are closer together.  More gentile slopes are represented by lines that are farther apart.

The other popular method of representing elevation in GIS is a Digital Elevation Model or DEM.  This representation represents the raster model and uses individual pixels, with each pixel assigned an elevation value.  Typically these will use feet or meters to represent the elevation.  The size of the cell is a very important consideration.  The smaller the cell size, the more detailed the elevation data.  Traditionally, these DEMs were created using aerial photography and (less often) RADAR.  Today, LiDAR is becoming a popular data collection method for elevation. 

Speaking of LiDAR.  Elevation may also be available in the form of LiDAR derived DEMs or as "point clouds" (LAS datasets).  LiDAR data collection is a form of remote sensing that measures how long it takes laser pulses to bounce off of objects and return to the sensor.  The unique properties of lasers allow the light to pass through translucent objects such as trees to create three-dimensional representations of the surface of the earth and objects on the ground.  Popular derived DEMs include "bare-earth" and "height above ground".  

Data Availability

Contour lines are available at the 1:24,000 scale from The National Map for the United States and US Territories.  Many counties and some municipalities make this data available as well.  We have contour line data for much of Wisconsin in our geospatial data collection.  Please use the Data Request Form to request this data.

DEMs are also available on the national map at a cell size of 1/9 Arc Second for the highest resolution.  LiDAR derived DEMs are often available at the county level and can have 5 foot or smaller cell sizes, allowing for the creation of detailed contour lines or for advanced flow analysis using ArcGIS and SWAT.

LiDAR derived DEMs in Wisconsin are available on WisconsinView.  

For more information, see the Elevation/LiDAR data page from the Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office.

Environmental Corridors

Environmental Corridors are large areas of connected, protected land.

The AGSL archives environmental corridor data from the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Committee (SEWRPC) for the following counties:

  • Milwaukee County
  • Ozaukee County
  • ​Waukesha County
  • Washington County
  • Walworth County
  • ​Racine County
  • Kenosha County

To receive this data, please fill out the AGSL Data Request Form

Historic Urban Growth Data

Historic Urban Growth data depicts the time of urbanization for particular areas. 

The AGSL archives Historic Urban Growth data from the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Planning Committee (SEWRPC) for the following counties:

  • Milwaukee County
  • Ozaukee County
  • ​Waukesha County
  • Washington County
  • Walworth County
  • ​Racine County
  • Kenosha County

To receive this data, please fill out the AGSL Data Request Form

Invasive Species

Information about invasive species in Wisconsin can be found via the Southeastern Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium.

To view prevalent invasive species in Southeastern Wisconsin, please find an Invasive Species Roadside Survey Map

For nationwide database and mapping tools and training pertaining to invasive species, please find Early Detection & Distribution Mapping Systems (EDDMAPS) Tools

For questions about this, or any other data, please email us at gisdata@uwm.edu, or fill out the AGSL Data Request Form

Land Use

The American Geographical Society Library archives land use polygons made available via the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). Land use data for the following counties can be acquired by filling out the AGSL Data Request Form:

  • Milwaukee County
  • Ozaukee County
  • ​Waukesha County
  • Washington County
  • Walworth County
  • ​Racine County
  • Kenosha County

The Master Property Record for the City of Milwaukee (MPROP) includes detailed, up-to-date land use information. Please find MPROP - Libguide

Land Cover

National land cover data can be downloaded directly from the National Land Cover Database (NLCD). The most recent year available is 2011.

Neighborhood Data

The City of Milwaukee offers a neighborhood shapefile for download via their Map Milwaukee Portal

To learn more about Milwaukee Neighborhoods, please find the Milwaukee Neighborhoods Library Guide.  

To request other neighborhood data, or if you have any questions, please email us at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form

Parcel Data

Wisconsin Statewide Parcels are available via the State Cartographer's Office Statewide Parcel Initiative.

Many counties make their parcels available on their county land information websites.

Milwaukee county parcels can be obtained from the MCLIO open data portal.

The City of Milwaukee updates their parcels every week, and they can be downloaded via the Map Milwaukee Portal

The parcel file contains only shape information and a taxkey.  The taxkey can be used to join the parcels to a Master Property File or Master Address Index.  Many City of Milwaukee datasets can be used in combination with Parcel and MPROP data.

To learn how to use and interpret MPROP data, please find our Libguide.

The AGSL archives parcels, MPROP, and MAI weekly.  The data is available by request using our Data Request Form.

Parks

Milwaukee County and Wisconsin state parks data is available via the Milwaukee County Land Information Office (MCLIO) - Libguide

For U.S. National Park data, please find the Parks and Protected Lands dataset, available via Natural Earth - Libguide 

Public Land Survey System (PLSS) Data

To download PLSS data for the state of Wisconsin, please find the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) FTP Link

For more information about this data, and how to use it, please find the State Cartographer's Office PLSS Data Page

Police District Data

Police districts can be downloaded via the City of Milwaukee's Map Milwaukee Portal.

If you have any questions, or wish to request data from the AGSL, please email us at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form.

Railway Data

To find current United States Railway data, please find the U.S. Census TIGER Products - LibGuide

For questions regarding historic or defunct railroad data, please do not hesitate to email us for help at gisdata@uwm.edu, or fill out our Data Request Form

Real Estate and Property Data

Information about properties and buildings in Milwaukee County can be found in the MCAMLIS Cadastral Geodatabase - Libguide.

To find detailed information about property ownership and use of buildings in the City of Milwaukee, please find MPROP, and our Libguide explaining how to use MPROP and how to interpret building use codes.

We archive MPROP weekly. To request this or any other property data, please do not hesitate to email us at gisdata@uwm or fill out our Data Request Form.

Schools

GIS school data is available for download via the Wisconsin Department for Public Instruction

Sidewalk Data

Sidewalk data can be extracted from the Milwaukee County-wide Topo/Planimetric Geodatabase made available via MCLIO - Libguide.

To request sidewalk data directly from the AGSL, please fill out our Data Request Form.

Soil Data

Please find the U.S. Department of Agriculture Web Soil Survey Interactive Download Map

State Boundary Data

State boundary data can be obtained via the U.S. Census.

Please find U.S. Census TIGER Products - Libguide.

States, other boundaries, and many additional map features for cartographic design and map-making can be downloaded via Natural Earth - Libguide.

Streets

Milwaukee city streets can be downloaded using the Dime file available via the City of Milwaukee Map Milwaukee Portal

Milwaukee County streets are available for download via MCAMLIS - Libguide.

To access Wisconsin statewide street data, please fill out our AGSL Data Request Form

To access nationwide street data, please find the U.S. Census' TIGER Products - Libguide.

Topography CAD

At the AGSL, we want you to feel confident finding GIS data and converting it to your own needs. 

Topography can mean anything from natural environmental features like elevation, to man-made features like buildings and roads.

To learn more about working with man-made features, please visit our Built Environment Homepage.

In order to enable GIS data for use in autoCAD, it must be brought into ArcMap, and exported as a .dwg file. 

ArcMap is available on most computers in the library, and in many computer labs on campus.

To learn how to prepare GIS data for use in AutoCAD using ArcMap, please find these step-by-step instructions

If you have any questions about this process, or wish to request data already in CAD format, please email us at gisdata@uwm.edu or fill out our Data Request Form.

Water and Hydrology Data

See the Wisconsin State Cartographer's Page on Rivers, Lakes and Streams Data.

The National Hydrography Dataset and the Watershed Boundary Dataset are available on The National Map,  see our LibGuide page about downloading data from The National Map.

The Wisconsin DNR 1:24,000 scale hydro geodatabase is recommended for projects in Wisconsin requiring a high degree of authority and accuracy.  It's available for download from the Wisconsin DNR's open data portal or by using our Data Request Form.

Please find the Global Lakes and Wetlands database, available for download via the World Wildlife Foundation

Wetland Data
Federal government wetland inventory data files can be obtained from the National Wetlands Inventory.

Wisconsin wetlands data can be obtained from the Wisconsin DNR for $15 per PLSS township using their Data Request Form.

To learn more about Wisconsin wetland data, please find the Wetland Data page on the Wisconsin State Cartographer's Office website.

Please find the Global Lakes and Wetlands database, available for download via the World Wildlife Foundation

 

SEWRPC Wetlands
The AGSL holds wetlands data from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC), this data is an extract of the SEWRPC Land Use datasets.

Please use our Data Request Form to order wetlands data for:

  • Milwaukee County
  • Ozaukee County
  • ​Waukesha County
  • Washington County
  • Walworth County
  • ​Racine County
  • Kenosha County

The AGSL can only distribute this data to UW-System affiliated users for educational use.  All other users should contact SEWRPC directly.

Zoning Data

Zoning is the process of dividing land in a municipality into zones (e.g. residential, industrial) in which certain land uses are permitted or prohibited. The type of zone determines whether planning permission for a given development is granted. Zoning may specify a variety of outright and conditional uses of land. It may also indicate the size and dimensions of land area as well as the form and scale of buildings. These guidelines are set in order to guide urban growth and development (Wikipedia).

To learn about Wisconsin zoning data, please find the zoning data page at the State Cartographer's Office website.

Wisconsin Statewide zoning data can be obtained from the website of the Wisconsin Statewide Parcel Map Project.

For Southeastern Wisconsin, the AGS Library holds zoning data from individual counties and municipalities as well as the SEWRPC Regional Consolidated Zoning dataset.  Please request this data using our Data Request Form.

 

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Request Data from the AGSL

Contact
UWM Libraries, 3rd Floor, East Wing
2311 E. Hartford Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53211
gisdata@uwm.edu
(414) 229-6282

Data Request Form Geospatial Data Homepage E-mail us gisdata@uwm.edu

Satisfaction Survey

We want to make sure that the GeoData Services at the AGSL remain useful and relevant to you.  Please complete our survey and help us improve our services.  This survey is being performed strictly for improvement of our services to you.  The information is not being used in any research at UWM or elsewhere.  You remain anonymous unless you opt-in at the end of the survey by providing your e-mail.  The survey uses the UWM Qualtrics survey instrument.

Click to Start Survey

GIS Day 2017

GIS Day 2017

If you're here for GIS Day, use these links to participate in the "Census Data and Tools for GIS" workshop with Stephen Appel.

GIS Day Homepage

American Fact Finder Tutorial
American
Fact Finder

NHGIS Tutorial
NHGIS

Download Workshop Data (optional)

Contact workshop instructor

Leaflet Workshop Data