Accessing USGS 3DEP data via OpenTopography

The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) is an ambitious effort to complete the acquisition of nationwide lidar (IfSAR in AK) by 2023 to provide the first-ever national baseline of consistent high-resolution elevation data – both bare earth and 3D point clouds – collected in a timeframe of less than a decade. Between 2015 and 2020, USGS and federal, state, local and non-government partners have collected over 2 million square miles of high resolution topography data, covering nearly 67% of the United States. Thanks to USGS efforts in the last year to migrate these data into the cloud, led by Hobu, Inc. and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in collaboration with AWS Public Dataset Program, OpenTopography is making these exciting data available to our core research and educational community via the procedures below.

OpenTopography is supported primarily by the U.S. National Science Foundation Division of Earth Sciences, and thus we’re initially offering this new functionality for academic research and to the education community. During this pilot, we intend to evaluate the broader demand for 3DEP data access via OpenTopography, to monitor scalability and performance, and to tackle factors related to the sustainability of offering this service to all OpenTopography users.

US Academic Community with a .edu email address:

The US academic community can access the 3DEP dataset by creating an OpenTopography account with their .edu email address and requesting access to the 3DEP dataset. 3DEP access is granted for a 1 year period and can be renewed annually.

K-12 teachers, international academics, and informal educators:

K-12 teachers, international academics, and informal educators interested in accessing 3DEP data via OpenTopography are invited to apply by submitting an application for access as described below. Our internal committee will review these applications periodically. Successful applicants will be informed following the review process below. Applications that do not conform to the review criteria will be rejected without review.

Please send completed applications to Provide a narrative explanation (<400 words) of your relevant qualifications. Indicate how you plan to use the data and describe the benefits to your students and/or community. OpenTopography uses these cases to demonstrate the impact of our services and to provide a measure of OpenTopography's success, helping to ensure continued funding.

Review criteria:

· Applicants must have a MyOpenTopo account at the time of application. An account is free and easy to make here.

· Applicants must be an educator (e.g., K-12 teachers, international academics, and informal educators).

· Applications are ideally received from an institutional email address. Applications from a personal (e.g., gmail) or other non-institutional email addresses are strongly discouraged. If your affiliation or status as an educator is not clear from your email, include other evidence of your affiliation. For example, a LinkedIn webpage or listing on a faculty or staff directory at an educational institution.

· Applications should be less than 400 words. Explain your role and how you plan to utilize access to OpenTopography’s services. Examples of appropriate uses include: Development of educational resources, teaching/classroom instruction, undergraduate and graduate thesis research.

· Successful applicants will be granted access to 3DEP data for 1 year. For access beyond the year, applicants must re-apply.

Commerical, hobby, and government users:

Due to funding limitations, at this time, we cannot grant access to users in these categories. It is our hope that we’ll be able to offer OpenTopography access to USGS 3DEP data to all users in the future, however the exact mechanism by which this happens is still under discussion by the OpenTopography team, our advisory committee, and our funders. We invite you to indicate interest in future access to the 3DEP dataset through a form that can be found when non-educators attempt to access the 3DEP dataset via OpenTopography. We will communicate with you when access to the 3DEP dataset through the OpenTopography portal opens to additional users.