National Geologic Map Database

In 2014-2017, this database design was extensively reviewed and test-implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey and the State Geological Surveys. During this process, certain modifications and clarifications were made to the now-superceded version, NCGMP09v1.1. The current version was formally published by the USGS in September of 2020 and given a new, more pronounceable name — "GeMS" (Geologic Map Schema). Questions or comments may be directed here.

Documentation and Tools

  • GeMS Tools wiki — documentation of the tools and suggestions for the use of GeMS.
  • Gitter chat room — discussion space for questions about using the GeMS schema.
  • GeoMaterials — terms and definitions from Appendix 1 of the GeMS documentation, in spreadsheet form.
  • FGDC Digital Cartographic Standard for Geologic Map Symbolization
  • Fonts for symbolizing and labeling geologic features:
    • FGDCGeoAge.otf — OpenType version of special geologic age characters.
    • FGDCGeoSym — Five TrueType font files of geologic marker symbols used for decorating line symbols and symbolizing points. These are required for the style files below.
    Installation of fonts on older versions of Windows will require admin privileges, but on any Windows 10 system updated since late 2018 (v. 1809), regular users can install fonts in their user profile directory and they will be recognized by the system. Note that to make the fonts available to all users, admin privileges are required.
  • ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro style files:
    • FGDCcmyk — ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro style files containing only the polygon fill colors shown in the FGDC CMYK Color Chart. Also known as wpgcmyk.style and derived from the ArcINFO shadeset wpgcmyk.shd.
    • FGDC_GSC_20100414 — ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro style files of the Canadian Geological Survey's partial implementation of FGDC symbols; mostly point, line, and text symbols. Requires installation of the FGDCGeoSym font files described above.
    • GSC_FGDC_GeologicMapSymbols — ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro style files containing both FGDCcymk and FGDC_GSC_20100414 symbols. Requires installation of the FGDCGeoSym font files described above.
    • DGGS_Map_Symbolization — ArcMap and ArcGIS Pro stylx files by the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys. This implementation contains more symbols than the GSC's version, including circular point symbols colored by FGDC CMYK colors. This version (v.3) of the style supersedes the DGGS style dated 10-2013. Requires installation of the FGDCGeoSym font files described above.
  • Monthly Collaborative Database Effort for Geology (CDEFG) meetings on the development of a multi-map, multi-user database based on GeMS at the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys. Many general GeMS topics discussed in addition to building an enterprise database.
  • MapMerger — GitHub repository for a tool for merging GeMS map databases. Ryan Crow, USGS.
  • Workflows, tools, and documentation for working with GeMS databases by the Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey.
  • NCGMP09 Migration Pilot Project (Washington State Division of Geology and Earth Resources).
  • Notes and resources for a short course on making geologic maps with the NCGMP09 schema — includes file "NCGMP09v1_Toolbox3b" (Ralph Haugerud, USGS, 5/23/2016) 322MB.

  • If your project or agency has tools, workflows, or documentation you would like to share, please consider having links posted here. Write to gems@usgs.gov to discuss.
  • Development of the python scripts in the geoprocessing toolboxes is handled through GitHub. If you would like to offer changes or enhancements, the best way is through the GitHub flow but you can also send files and/or documentation for the tools and they will be considered for incorporation.
  • If you find a bug in a toolbox tool or would like to request an enhancement, please submit an issue at the appropriate repository (see Documentation and Tools).
  • For informal discussion of all aspects of using the schema, you can join the Gitter chat room or send an email to request to join the Digital Mapping Techniques community listserv.

Example maps published in GeMS format:


GeMS ("Geologic Map Schema", formerly "NCGMP09") is the standard schema for geologic map publications funded by the U.S. Geological Survey's National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP). Its design specifies encoding the content analogous to that contained in a traditional geologic map published by the USGS and by State Geological Surveys. Implementation in ESRI software is described in GeMS, in order to adhere to USGS policy and because this is the GIS most commonly used in the USGS, in the State Geological Surveys, and in the larger community.

This schema is an outcome of nearly two decades of work among numerous individuals and projects, in the NCGMP and in other programs and in many agencies. In particular, during this period the National Geologic Map Database project (NGMDB) has been charged under the Geologic Mapping Act to support the development of geologic map standards and guidelines. Throughout this time, it has been clear that there is no single "right" approach, database needs vary from project to project, and these needs may contrast markedly with the long-term requirements for the national database. This schema, as noted, is intended to address the needs of geologic mapping projects particularly for data delivery, and so we sought consensus on a design that met those needs.

NCGMP09 was introduced at the Digital Mapping Techniques '09 meeting (May, 2009), as version 0.8.2, in order to solicit preliminary comments and testing. Version 1.0 was released October 14, 2009, for presentation at the Geological Society of America's Annual Meeting. In the months following, more extensive evaluations were received, and in response the design evolved. A revised version was published in the DMT'09 Proceedings as NCGMP09 (version 1.1). During that timeframe, NCGMP09 development was supported by the USGS/AASG National Geologic Map Database Project and the USGS Pacific Northwest Geologic Mapping Project (Ralph Haugerud, Stephen Richard, David Soller, and Evan Thoms). Since then, implementation and potential revisions or enhancements to NCGMP09 have been conducted by a wider group of colleagues (see Progress Report of Sept. 25, 2013). In 2014-2017, the schema and documentation were extensively reviewed and test-implemented by the U.S. Geological Survey and the State Geological Surveys. During this process, the need for certain modifications and clarifications, including renaming the schema to GeMS, was identified and in 2018, a draft of a new peer-reviewed, but still provisional, release was made available. This was formally published on September 2, 2020 by the USGS as a Techniques and Methods series report (number 11-B10) and is now the documentation for the current release of GeMS.

Regarding availability and maintenance of this database design, under the authority of the Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 (and subsequent reauthorizations), the National Geologic Map Database project will function on behalf of the NCGMP as coordinator of database design changes and maintenance. This activity will be conducted in cooperation with NCGMP projects and other identified stakeholders (e.g., the Association of American State Geologists). Long-terms plans include proposing GeMS as the standard supported by the Federal Geographic Data Committee. Please note that the schema and documentation, and the software tools that support it will evolve over time, in response to the needs of users and geologic mappers, and to advances in technology.

Archive of previous versions and related information

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