about us

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.

Present Uses

  • 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.

Multidisciplinary Uses

Various uses for the Emriver models across disciplines and user groups are described on our Applications 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:

  • Geosciences
  • 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

Our People


Katherine Poulos, Owner

Jim King

Jim King, Production Director

Steve Grimmer

Steve Grimmer, Artist Mechanic

Mookie Forcella

Mookie Forcella, Web Manager

Akiyo Matsumoto

Akiyo Matsumoto, Japan Representative



Steve Gough, Fluvial Geomorphologist and Founder

Applying his experience in fluvial geomorphology and biotechnical engineering, Steve produced award-winning assessments and designs that restored environmental value and saved municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars. Steve helped municipalities solve urban storm water problems using environmentally and economically sound alternatives. He also 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 in 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 also a co-recipient of ASCE’s Engineering Achievement Award for work on the Mississippi River near St. Louis in 2003.

Steve was 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 were fluvial geomorphology, hydraulics, hydrology, river management policy and bioengineering methods. Audiences included lay people and landowners, resource management professionals, researchers and civil engineers. Steve was familiar with the diverse perspectives and knowledge typical of these groups.

Steve’s workshop clients 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

Featured Projects

See featured projects from Steve’s river restoration work.