National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program

This Web site contains information on activities of the USGS National Geologic Map Database Project (NGMDB). The NGMDB is a collaborative effort primarily involving the USGS and the state geological surveys. This Web site contains informal, generally time-sensitive material intended for project members, cooperators, and interested parties.


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc (ESRI) are collaborating on an effort to prepare in Arc/Info and ArcView formats a complete version of the USGS draft standard for geologic map symbolization, including line and point symbols, patterns, and colors. When completed, ESRI will support the standard in the current Arc/Info and Arc/View architecture. In the meantime, ESRI has, in cooperation with the mining industry, created a preliminary, limited set of point and line symbols derived from the USGS draft standard (1995 version). This preliminary set (about 20% of the symbols in the standard) includes many commonly-used symbols. It will be shipped with Arc/Info and ArcView.

The USGS draft standard has its origin in the decades-old internal standard maintained by the Topographic Division and then the Geologic Division's Office of Scientific Publications (both no longer in existence). In 1995, a revision of the internal standard was released to the public as USGS Open-file Report 95-525, in preparation for consideration by the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) as a Federal standard for geologic map symbolization. That Report was then reviewed (see USGS OFR 96-725) and is being revised in preparation for consideration by the FGDC, probably in late 1998.

Public release of the draft standard filled a real need in the geoscience community. Individuals and groups within many government agencies in the U.S. and elsewhere, and in private companies, have or have considered converting the draft standard to a digital format for use in a GIS, CAD, or map production system. Completion of the initial review, preparation of the document for Federal review, and USGS/ESRI commitment means that a single, authoritative version of the standard can now be prepared in a format that will address the needs of a significant number of users. To satisfy the widest possible audience, and to provide wide access to a digital version of the revised standard while it is undergoing FGDC review, the USGS will release in 1998 an Open-file Report on CD-ROM, containing a Postscript version of each symbol and pattern. [That CD-ROM may be followed by USGS release of some Arc/Info symbols prior to ESRI's completion of the final symbolset.] Announcement of the CD's release, and updates on progress of the USGS/ESRI effort and the FGDC review will be provided at "". For specific technical information about the symbol development, please contact Taryn Lindquist (USGS Western Publications Group, 650-329-5061 or; for general questions about this subject or development of other geologic map standards, please contact Dave Soller (USGS, 703-648-6907 or

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Maintained by Dave Soller (
last update: May 25, 1998