The client for a project we worked on in eastern North Carolina required that I use a particular program to collect and manage environmental data. This program, Scribe, was created by the EPA?s Environmental Response Team using Microsoft Access. Because Scribe?s purpose is so similar to environmental management software we were developing, I was, of course, interested in this free product and what it has to offer.

Scribe is divided into three main parts, which I will briefly summarize below. These summaries are not designed to be technical reviews but to offer a non-biased viewpoint of Scribe?s capabilities so that you can determine for yourself if you want to learn more.

1. Planning.
In the planning section, you create your event. This involves picking/creating your analytical methods, selecting a lab, inputting GPS coordinates of the wells/points that you are sampling, and entering all project information (Project numbers, DART numbers, or Contract Laboratory Program [CLP] lab numbers). One area to pay particular attention to is making sure that the right fields are populated with the correct information depending on the lab you are using. Entering wrong information can cause problems later.

2. Sampling.
Scribe?s greatest strength is its versatility. Scribe is designed for Air, Wipe, Biota, Soil/Sediment, Soil Gas, and Water samples. It also leaves ample space to include the sampling data you have collected without overwhelming you with choices.

3. Sample Management.
This area allows you to set up and print labels and chain of custody forms, as well as input lab results. However, because the EPA and CLP labs require certain information in certain areas, this part can get confusing. Really, your best shot at getting this right your first time around is to contact someone who knows Scribe and knows what options are to be selected and then get them to walk you through it.

Now, from my own experience with Scribe, here are a couple of pros and cons to the system:


  • It can be used for a wide range of sampling and monitoring jobs.
  • It is highly customizable.
  • It allows data to be exported in different forms.
  • It?s free! (Unless you don?t already have Microsoft Access).


  • Too many options and field choices can leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed.
  • Not intuitive; a very steep learning curve.
  • Label setup and chain of custody setup is confusing and poorly executed.
  • Entering all samples and analyses is very time consuming.

To download a copy of Scribe or to read about Scribe?s technical capabilities, visit: Microsoft Access is required.

Have you used Scribe? Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments about your experiences.


Written by: Chris Hollinger

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