Geosciences student combines art and science in Rivers Illustrated exhibit

Have you ever wondered what the world looked like before humans touched it? You aren’t alone.

Rivers Illustrated Save the Date


Emily Iskin, who graduated this month with a Ph.D. in geomorphology from the Warner College of Natural Resources’ geosciences department, consistently thinks about the impacts of humans on the world. Iskin enjoys finding creative outlets to pursue in her personal life, and was inspired by her time as a 2022-2023 Voices for Science Advocate and Sustainability Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to bring her art and science together. Iskin is now combining her love of the natural world with her love of art in an exhibit called Rivers Illustrated.

Photo of Emily Iskin
Emily Iskin, Rivers Illustrated artist

In collaboration with Ellen Wohl, professor in the geosciences department, and Rocky Mountain National Park, with support from American Geophysical Union’s Sharing Science, Iskin’s exhibit kicks off with an open house on Friday, June 23, from 4-6 p.m. at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. The National Park Service will also present on river science and the restoration efforts in the Kawuneeche Valley. The combined event is free and open to the public, with the option to RSVP on Facebook, although no formal RSVP is needed.

Rivers Illustrated showcases Iskin’s full-color drawings, which depict rivers around the United States before human impacts such as dams and diversions. The illustrations feature rivers from five different Western biomes: Southwest Mesquite Bosque, Pacific Northwest Old Growth, Alaska Tundra, Rocky Mountain Beaver Meadow and Great Plains Shortgrass Prairie.

Photo of Ellen Wohl and Emily Iskin at graduation
Ellen Wohl and Emily Iskin at Spring 2023 Commencement

Included descriptions of each illustrated river are based on research and historical accounts and feature a list of nearby rivers from each biome that people can visit. Iskin hopes that by showcasing what rivers used to look like before human impacts, she can give the public a better idea of what can be done to preserve, conserve and restore the natural rivers that still exist.

“Emily’s ability to distill the essence of a river environment in attractive line drawings can help people to visualize natural rivers and to understand their importance,” Wohl said.

Additional information

For those interested in viewing Iskin’s exhibit but unable to attend the open house, Rivers Illustrated will run through summer 2023 at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, located north of Grand Lake on U.S. Highway 34.

Additional artwork by Iskin can be found in her online portfolio.