From Steve Gough,
Years ago, I decided good river management meant educating people; that’s what our river models do. In 2001, physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson did a great job of summing up why Little River Research exists:
“When you’re scientifically literate, the world looks different to you. It’s a particular way of questioning what you see and hear. When empowered by this state of mind, objective realities matter. These are the truths of the world that exist outside of whatever your belief system tells you.
One objective reality is that our government doesn’t work, not because we have dysfunctional politicians, but because we have dysfunctional voters. As a scientist and educator, my goal, then, is not to become president and lead a dysfunctional electorate, but to enlighten the electorate so they might choose the right leaders in the first place.”
As a forestry undergrad at the University of Arkansas-Monticello, I was well-grounded in statistics, dendrology, photogrammetry, and surveying. I worked as a logger and in the sawmills of southern Arkansas. I cut down trees and made them into lumber. I saw, in the way loggers treated rivers, a disconnect between sound science and policy. I went to graduate school, hoping to fix that. Then I worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation and was able to reach that goal. I got paid to teach people – farmers and miners and loggers – how rivers worked.
In 1991, I left that job to create Little River Research & Design, to be my own boss and work nationwide to support better river engineering and conservation.
In 2007, my wife, Kate, and I decided the best way to help river ecosystems was through education. We bought a building in Carbondale, Illinois, and started manufacturing and selling Emriver models full time, because I care about our natural world, and because our civilization, as a democracy, depends on education and understanding.
Why Physical Models?
The first iterations of the Emriver models were built in the late 1980s by Steve and his fellow river managers working for the Missouri Department of Conservation. These models were developed to meet a dire need: teaching private landowners about river geomorphology.
Static drawings and talks were inadequate. Humans have a tendency to oversimplify the morphologic response of rivers to practices such as channel straightening or bedload mining, and attempts at education were frustrating. Miners, farmers and loggers who had observed river behavior all their lives were understandably reluctant to accept new ideas.
But those early models proved to be powerful tools for conveying the complicated processes and responses of rivers. Landowners and laypeople could clearly see, for example, how headcuts and incision can damage land upstream of a gravel removal operation.
The Emriver geomodel and its ancestors are effective tools for teaching and understanding river process and morphology for all ages. Experienced river observers invariably recognize in the models morphological features and processes they have seen in the field. The strong similarities between channel behavior in the Emriver model and the behavior and morphology of real rivers is very convincing, even for the most skeptical observers. Observation of these processes is made easier by a greatly compressed time scale and expanded physical scale. Things happen faster in the model, and in the 2-meter Emriver Em2, one can see the equivalent of a few hundred meters of real stream. That’s why we often see people make great leaps in understanding by observing the model.
- Academia: Students, researchers and professors use them for advanced demonstrations, teaching, and research in the geosciences, engineering, fisheries, and environmental sciences.
- Environmental outreach and education: Great for teaching the need for river conservation.
- Teaching STEM concepts: K-12 students are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in tangible ways.
- Professional river managers: Using the models to help make sound policy and management decisions.
Various uses for the Emriver models across disciplines and user groups are described on our How to Use page. You’ll find examples of curriculum and exercises, outreach demonstrations, research papers, videos, and much more to help you learn how to effectively use your model. Disciplines and users include:
- Water Resources and Civil Engineering
- Environmental Science and Planning
- Fisheries Science
- K-12 STEM Education
- Public Outreach by Nonprofits and Government Entities
- Museums and Science Centers
Steve Gough, Fluvial Geomorphologist and Principal at LRRD
Applying his experience in fluvial geomorphology and biotechnical engineering, Steve has produced award-winning assessments and designs that have restored environmental value and saved municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars. Steve has helped municipalities solve urban storm water problems using environmentally and economically sound alternatives. He also has studied historic hydrology on the Cache River in southern Illinois, and produced educational videos on fluid mechanics and geomorphology.
Steve was co-awarded the Outstanding Civil Engineering Design Award for 2000 by the St. Louis Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers for a project in Maryland Heights, St. Louis County, Missouri. He was a co-recipient of ASCE’s Engineering Achievement Award for work on the Mississippi River near St. Louis in 2003.
Steve has been widely recognized as a leader in teaching applied fluvial geomorphology in the Midwestern United States, having produced and delivered more than 30 short courses on river process and management for a variety of private and government organizations. Most of these workshops were developed in cooperation with local experts and were customized to include presentation of regional case studies. Primary topics are fluvial geomorphology, hydraulics, hydrology, river management policy and bioengineering methods. Audiences have included lay people and landowners, resource management professionals, researchers and civil engineers. Steve is familiar with the diverse perspectives and knowledge typical of these groups.
Steve’s workshop clients have included:
- American Fisheries Society chapters in Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan
- State chapters in Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan
- American Fisheries Society, North-Central Division
- Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology
- Great Plains Agricultural Council
- Illinois State Water Survey
- Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
- Missouri Department of Conservation
- Missouri Society of American Foresters
- U.S. National Park Service, Buffalo National River, Arkansas
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources
- St. Louis County Soil and Water Conservation District
- The Nature Conservancy
- U.S. Forest Service, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri
- Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- University of California-Berkeley