THE CZO DATA PORTAL enables rapid exploration and filtering of the many datasets used by the US NSF Critical Observatories program. These data span a wide range of disciplines in earth, environmental, and biological sciences. Data have been created by CZO and its partners. Some datasets were created prior to the start of the CZO program.

The Portal is based solely on extensive metadata, which includes pointers to data files. The files themselves are stored elsewhere, mostly on servers at the 10 individual CZO observatories.

CZO data can be searched simultaneously alongside related, non-CZO data collections like ‘LiDAR data of the US’ from OpenTopography.org. All Portal content is available as multiple web services via our API access.

THE CRITICAL ZONE is Earth’s outer skin - from the top of the vegetation down into the groundwater. It is a constantly evolving boundary layer where rock, water, soil, air, and living organisms interact. Illustration modified from Chorover et al., 2007.

illustration of the components of the Critical Zone

Video introduction

Watch an x min screencast video to get an overview of searching and browsing the CZO Data Portal.

The video helps answer questions like: What’s the best way to filter to a subset of data? What are CZO Datasets vs Display Files? Why are Discipline filters only available for CZO Datasets?

screencast intro video

Map of 10 CZO observatories

The Critical Zone Observatory program (CZO) is based on 10 individual observatories located in differing climatic and physiographic environments, from California to Puerto Rico. Each observatory is an environmental laboratory studying the chemical, physical and biological processes that shape Earth's surface on short-to-long time scales. CZO is supported by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

Additional data access points

National | Boulder Creek | Christina River | Jemez-Catalina | Luquillo | Reynolds | Shale Hills | Southern Sierra - Dataset listings for individual observatories in a consistent format at criticalzone.org

Data Visualization Portal - A map-based tool for exploration and discovery at viz.criticalzone.org (under construction).

Luquillo | Shale Hills | Southern Sierra - Additional Data Catalogs for individual CZOs at their unique URLs. Most content is repeated on the Main Website but in a different form.

Experimental data viewers

PivotViewer prototypes for filtering subsets of data. Both are under construction, contain out-of-date content, and require a Silverlight plugin. The People Viewer may be added to criticalzone.org in the future.

People Viewer

Data Viewer

These small experiments are just a few pieces of ongoing larger efforts to build an integrated CZO data system.



Funding for CZO and the CZO Data Portal has been provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

Data Sources

Data within the CZO portal comes from many sources. Datasets have been created by CZO and its partners in recent years, while older datasets precede the creation of the CZO program. CZO partners with more than 150 organizations, universities, and agencies.

Framework & Visual Design

The CZO Portal is built upon a framework and visual design shared with us by the West Coast Ocean Data Portal (WCODP), a project of the West Coast Governors Alliance on Ocean Health (WCGA). We appreciate their assistance answering questions about the framework. Their code is available on GitHub.

CZO IS A MULTI-DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM. From the Southern Sierra CZO. Credit: Roger Bales, University of California, Merced
schematic illustration of CZO science from satellites to groundwater sampling
SENTINEL ROCKS ON THE WASHINGTON COAST. From the West Coast Ocean Data Portal. Credit: Andy Lanier
Sentinel Rocks in Washington