USGS scientists are looking for your help in addressing some of today’s most perplexing scientific challenges, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. To do so requires a partnership between the best and the brightest in Government and the public to guide research and identify solutions.

The USGS is seeking help via this platform from many of the Nation’s premier application developers and data visualization specialists in developing new visualizations and applications for datasets. 

USGS datasets for the contest consist of a range of earth science data types, including:

  • several million biological occurrence records (terrestrial and marine);
  • thousands of metadata records related to research studies, ecosystems, and species;
  • vegetation and land cover data for the United States, including detailed vegetation maps for the National Parks; and
  • authoritative taxonomic nomenclature for plants and animals of North America and the world.

Collectively, these datasets are key to a better understanding of many scientific challenges we face globally. Identifying new, innovative ways to represent, apply, and make these data available is a high priority.

Submissions will be judged on their relevance to today’s scientific challenges, innovative use of the datasets, and overall ease of use of the application. Prizes will be awarded to the best overall app, the best student app, and the people’s choice.



  • Participants: Individuals (over 13 years in age) and Teams; Students must be enrolled in at least one class
  • Countries: United States


  • Application must be accessible
  • Must include a one page description
  • Installation instructions (if appropriate)
  • Acceptable platforms include Web, a personal computer, a mobile handheld device, console, or any platform broadly accessible on the open Internet
  • Use at least one CSAS data product listed under Data Sources
  • No DOI or USGS logos used
  • For Best Student prize- all members of the team must be students
  • Free of malware
  • Section 508 compliant

Hackathon Sponsors


Best Overall App

Winner will be honored at the USGS The National Map Users Conference/Community for Data Integration Workshop ( in the Mile High City (Denver, CO This is a unique opportunity to network with scientists, program managers, and application developers from across the nation.

Popular Choice App

Winner will be honored at the USGS The National Map Users Conference/Community for Data Integration Workshop ( in the Mile High City (Denver, CO This is a unique opportunity to network with scientists, program managers, and application developers from across the nation.

Devpost Achievements

Submitting to this hackathon could earn you:

How to enter

Submission Period and Process

Developers must submit their original app between January 9, 2013 at 9:00am EDT and April 1, 2013 at 11:00pm EDT. Individuals are required to provide a link to the app and are encouraged to submit a short video of their working app. The judging panel and public voting runs from April 5, 2013 at 5:00pm EDT to April 25, 2013 at 11:00pm EDT. Winners announced April 26, 2013 at 5:00pm EDT.

Interested persons should read these Official Rules and register at the Challenge website –  Registration is free and can be done during the Challenge’s Submission Period, January 9 – April 1, 2013. After you register you must verify your email address via the registration email sent to the address entered in the registration form. You will then be able to enter a submission. Fill out the submission form on the application submission tab, including your submission title, a text description of the submission, a link to the app, a list of data used, and instructions on how to install the app. A video that shows the app in use is encouraged but not required. Be sure to read the terms and conditions and, if you agree, check off the box and submit!

Submissions will be reviewed to ensure they meet minimum competition criteria before being published on After the initial submission is received, DOI may provide Contestants with additional feedback and instruction to help meet the minimum competition criteria, in order to be considered a qualifying entry.


Summary Submission Requirements

In order for Submissions to be eligible to win this Challenge, they must meet the following requirements:

  1. GeneralContestants must provide access to the app, a description of the app (less than 2 pages), instructions on how to install and operate the app (if applicable), and system requirements required to run the app (collectively, “Submission”).
  2. Acceptable platforms The app must be designed for the Web, a personal computer, a mobile handheld device, console, or any platform broadly accessible on the open Internet.
  3. Data used The app must utilize a minimum of 1 DOI USGS Core Science and Analytics (CSAS) data source, though they need not include all data fields available in a particular resource.  A list of CSAS databases and resources is available at:  The use of data from other sources in conjunction with CSAS data is encouraged.
  4. Deadline The Submission must be available for evaluation by April 1, 2012 at 11:00 PM ET for judging purposes.
  5. No DOI logo The app must not use any DOI or USGS logos or official seal in the Submission, and must not claim DOI or USGS endorsement.
  6. Functionality/AccuracyA Submission may be disqualified if the software application fails to function as expressed in the description provided by the user, or if the software application provides inaccurate information.
  7. Security Submissions must be free of malware.  Contestant agrees that DOI may conduct testing on the app to determine whether malware or other security threats may be present.  DOI may disqualify the app if, in DOI’s judgment, the app may damage government or others’ equipment or operating environment.


Data Sources

For additional information, including Web services and data access, please see

Also, for more in depth information about the data sources, webinars are available here.

  • Biocomplexity Thesaurus - Development of the Biocomplexity Thesaurus began in 2002-2003 through a partnership between the NBII and ProQuest (formerly Cambridge Scientific Abstacts [CSA]), a worldwide information company with more than 30 years experience as a leading bibliographic database provider. The original Biocomplexity Thesaurus, first made available online in 2003, was a merger of five individual thesauri: CSA Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Thesaurus, CSA Life Sciences Thesaurus, CSA Pollution Thesaurus, CSA Sociological Thesaurus, and CERES/NBII Thesaurus.
  • CSAS Geoportal - The CSAS Geoportal includes geospatial data and services derived from CSAS and external data, but not currently available through CSAS's national products. The geoportal manages our geospatial datasets, rasters and web services, and offers several visualization and download tools. It also provides an interface for users to discover and access registered resources to use in their own projects.
  • Gap Analysis Program (GAP) - The mission of the Gap Analysis Program (GAP) is to improve our ability to assess the affects of land management practices by developing and sharing information on where species and natural communities occur and how they are being managed for their long-term survival. "Gap analysis" is a scientific method for identifying the degree to which native animal species and natural plant communities are represented in our present-day network of conservation lands. Those species and communities not adequately represented constitute "gaps" in conservation lands and efforts.
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) - ITIS is a partnership of federal agencies formed to satisfy their mutual needs for scientifically credible taxonomic information. The goal for ITIS is to create an easily accessible database with reliable information on species names and their hierarchical classification. The database is reviewed periodically to ensure high quality with valid classifications, revisions, and additions of newly described species. ITIS includes documented taxonomic information of flora and fauna from both aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
  • National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP) - The mission of the National Fish Habitat Partnership is to protect, restore, and enhance the nation's fish and aquatic communities through partnerships that foster fish habitat conservation and improve the quality of life for the American people. To remain true to the National Fish Habitat Partnership's science-based decision-making strategies, data used in Through a Fish's Eye: The Status of Fish Habitats in the United States 2010 (and future assessments) are accessible through an online data system maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Ocean Biogeographic Information System-USA (OBIS-USA) - The Ocean Biogeographic Information System - USA (OBIS-USA) provides access to biogeographic data collected from U.S. waters and oceanic regions--the Arctic, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes. The data are aggregated from a large number of datasets from a multitude of partners documenting where and when species were observed or collected. It also offers a unique combination of tools to aide scientists, resource managers, and decision makers in research and analyses critical to undertanding and managing the nation's valued marine ecosystems.
  • ScienceBase - A data cataloging and collaborative data management platform providing access to aggregated information derived from many data and information domains and web services enabling use of data in other applications. ScienceBase includes information feeds from existing data systems, metadata catalogs, and scientists contributing new and original content.
  • Vegetation Characterization Program (VCP) - The USGS-NPS Vegetation Characterization Program is a cooperative effort by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Park Service Inventory & Monitoring - Vegetation Inventory Program to classify, describe, and map vegetation communities in more than 280 national park units across the United States. Through this undertaking a variety of data and information on vegetation is being made available to Internet users through this website.Vegetation in each of the participating park units is described and mapped using the National Vegetation Classification Standard of the Federal Geographic Data Committee.
  • USGS Core Science Metadata Clearinghouse - The USGS Core Science Metadata Clearinghouse is a repository that contains approximately 100,000 metadata records from more than 80 data providers. The Clearinghouse is part of the CSAS Metadata Program, whose mission is to provide USGS and its partners with data documentation services that make critical data management activities readily accessible and easy to use. These include: metadata creation and quality control assistance, metadata authoring tools, educational and training workshops, and a searchable metadata clearinghouse. The CSAS Metadata Program seeks to achieve a workflow environment that assists USGS scientists with the implementation of critical data management activities.



USGS Panel

USGS Panel

Judging Criteria

  • Relevance
    Potentially accelerates scientific discovery and reveals new connections to increase our understanding of Earth's natural systems.
  • Innovation
    Application itself is novel and innovative.
  • Ease of Use
    Appeal of the application from a usability perspective.

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