Getting Started with NEON Data

What types of data does NEON provide?

NEON generates over 170 standardized and QA/QCed data products including meteorological, soil, organismal, biogeochemical, freshwater aquatic and remote sensing data. Data are collected at 81 aquatic and terrestrial field sites across the US using automated instruments, observational field sampling and airborne remote sensing surveys. NEON also publishes prototype data.

Are NEON data free to use?

As a National Science Foundation facility, NEON makes data freely available online with as few restrictions as possible. Once data are collected in the field, they are processed and made downloadable from the NEON data portal. All data come with data collection and processing documentation.

Are all data availabe from all field sites?

Almost all of our data products are currently available and all of our constructed field sites have at least some data, however we are still in the process of adding much of the data from each field site to our portal. To determine which data products are currently available from which site, explore the availability charts on the browse data page. The default view shows the summary of data availability, but you can click on “site”, “domain”, or “state” to view availability at another scale. Or you can also explore the Data Availability Chart.

How do I get NEON data?

NEON data are downloadable from the NEON Data Portal or programmatically using the NEON Data API. If you need a very large amount of Airborne Data, you may request a hard drive shipment through our Airborne Data request form. More details about how to get NEON data are listed below.

What do I get when I download the data?

Depending on the data product, you will received a zipped folder of files that may be in csv, hdf5, tif, or other format. You can also select to download all related documentation which typically include a user guide and protocols for the collection and processing of your data product. The zipped file you download will include individual files by month by field site. The neonUtilities R package can be used to join (or stack) the .csv data tables in these files and is probably the first thing you want to do with the data you download. The neonUtilities R package also offers many other tools for working with NEON data. If you are a Python user, use this package Using neonUtilities in Python

Tips for Finding Data on the Portal

With over 170 data products and 81 field sites, exploring NEON data may feel a bit overwhelming. The Data Portal is in active development, and you may see major changes to web pages over the next few months.  Also check out the Data Portal’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for more detailed information, or submit a question or issue through the Data Portal’s Feedback form. With that in mind, here are a few ways to get started searching for the data you want:

Search the Data Product Catalog

Have no idea where to begin? Go to the interactive data product catalog and explore our data products. This resource provides detailed information about each data product, along with links to related documentation (such as protocols and science designs), links to other related data products, and change logs. Each data product page also provides a link to start the data download process. All of the information provided in each data product’s catalog page is also delivered in README files with each download.

Homepage Search Bar

If you know what you are looking for, it's easy to use the Get Started Search bar on the homepage of the data portal. Simply type in a keyword, data product name, year, site, or NEON domain and then select what you want from the dynamic dropdown. Your selection will pre-populate all available data by sites and months on the Data Products page. If you don't see what you are looking for, go to the interactive data product catalog.

Three Ways to Get NEON Data

There are three ways you can currently get data.

Option 1: The Data Products page

To complete your download from this page, you will need to know:

  • What data product you want
  • Which location(s) you want
  • What timeframe you want data for

Once you’ve selected the parameters above, you have the option to select a “basic” or “expanded” download. The “expanded” download will include all related documents for your data product.

Please note that most data downloads will be formatted as a zipped file that includes individual files by month by field site. Depending on data product, these files may be in csv, hdf5, tif, or other format. See below for tools to help you join the data together.

Option 2: Beta Browse Data page

Go to the Data Products page and click on the “Try out the new (in-development) data browse and download experience!” link to navigate to our new Browse Data page. This new page is still in Beta stage so you may run into some bugs, but overall, it gives you many more options to explore the data and is more user-friendly.

Option 3: The NEON Data API

Use the NEON Data API for accessing data programmatically. You may also use it through the following code resources:

Resources for Working with NEON Data

Code Resources

NEON code resources are created to make working with NEON data easier, to perform common algorithms on select data products, and to share the code used to generate select data products. Most NEON code resources can be found in the NEONScience GitHub organization. The code is free and open access to download and utilize. The code found in the NEONScience GitHub organization is published and maintained by NEON project scientists.

NEON also collaborates with data users to identify and facilitate the creation of coding resources. If you have requests for coding resources, challenges with NEON data or ideas for creating NEON data-related code, we encourage you to reach out to us on GitHub.

neonUtilities - working with Zipped & Site by Month Files: When you download data off the data portal, most of the data will be formatted as a zipped file that includes individual .csv files by month by field site. The neonUtilities R package (direct installtion available through CRAN) allows you to join (or stack) the .csv data tables in these files and is probably the first thing you want to do with the data you download. The neonUtilities R package also offers many other tools for working with NEON data. Are you a Python user? Follow these instructions, Using neonUtilities in Python.  

Super Easy R Stacker Script for Beginners

Are you a beginner R user? This super, simple R script is perfect for data users who want to stack NEON data but are not that familiar with working in R. Using only three lines of code, you will be able to combine multiple months & sites of NEON data downloaded as a .zip file from the NEON data portal. Please note that this script will only work for NEON data products that are delivered as zipped folders of .csv files (most OS and IS data products but not AOP data products).   


Data Skills Training

NEON maintains a library of over 100 free online training tutorials that teach users how to work with NEON data.  Check them all out on the Data Tutorials page.

Other Resources

There are many resources and tools on the NEON data portal, including taxonomy lists, document libraries, a sample viewer, data product updates and FAQs. Please dig in, explore the portal, use NEON data, and if you don't see what you are looking for, we encourage you to send in feedback and requests to the NEON data portal team.

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