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'Central Rocks' Host: Nick Zentner

Nick Zentner - a Senior Lecturer at Central Washington University - teaches a Geology of Washington class regularly on campus, leads the Ellensburg Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute, and is the host of KCWU’s ‘Central Rocks’ geology television programs.

Click to view Nick Zentner's latest 'Roadside Geology' episode: Frenchman Coulee.

Karl Lillquist shows USGS map -J Harlen Bretz.

Karl Lillquist (CWU Geography)- explains 1910 U.S. Geological Survey topographic map of Quincy Basin during IAFI field trip. This map helped spark J Harlen Bretz's interest in the channeled scablands.

- Trip Report -

Adios Karl and add Central Rocks, Lecture series and Roadside. Mention Spencer Does Nick have picture of him?

Nick came to Ellensburg in 1992 – and is now the longest-tenured member of the CWU Department of Geological Sciences. Each academic quarter, Nick teaches a popular Geology of Washington course to freshman (and interested townsfolk for free). Nick regularly takes his introductory students to various field sites in central Washington to teach the wonders of Washington’s geology. Since 1994, Nick has taught an Introduction to Geologic Field Methods course to CWU geology majors in beautiful Owens Valley, California.

In 2006, Ellensburg native Tom Foster approached Nick about starting a local chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute. Tom and Nick joined forces with CWU geography professor Karl Lillquist – and the chapter started offering free evening lectures and Sunday field trips to the general public. Every year at CWU, the Ellensburg Chapter offers five evening lectures from visiting scientists working in the Channeled Scablands. In addition, Karl and Nick take turns leading four Sunday afternoon field trips per year to selected field sites throughout eastern Washington.

Surprised and inspired by the public’s enthusiastic response to the Ice Age Floods lectures and field trips, Nick began working with KCWU-TV’s Rick Spencer to produce more geology programming. ‘Central Rocks’, a series of 30-minute interviews with CWU geologists began in 2006 – and now includes conversations with visiting research geologists from the U.S. Geological Survey and other universities. More than 30 interview shows have been produced to date.

In 2010, the owner of Raw Space – a newly renovated performing arts structure in historic downtown Ellensburg – approached Nick about using his venue for a series of free lectures to the public. The result: six Wednesday evening lectures in the spring and another six Wednesday evening lectures in the fall (taped for KCWU-TV) on the Geology of Washington. Crowds of over 100 folks per lecture were commonplace.

A direct result of the Raw Space lectures was a generous donation in 2011 from the Donna & Charles Cole Charitable Foundation for continued outreach to the community. That spurred Nick’s most recent project: ‘Central Rocks: Roadside Geology” – a series of short films shot in the field by KCWU-TV’s Rick Spencer and Chris Smart, and hosted by Mr. Zentner. Local landmarks like Frenchman Coulee, the Yakima River Canyon, and the Thorp Prairie have been featured.

Raised in southern Wisconsin, Nick discovered geology while working in Glacier National Park in Montana. After undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin, Nick did his graduate studies at Idaho State University - in the path of the Bonneville Flood – spending two summers mapping geology on the northern margin of the Snake River Plain near Yellowstone National Park.

Sunrise at outlet of Grand Coulee
Explain need to mouseover image for description! Compare this to Nick's water bottle maybe "barrel of the gun"? hundreds of feet deep ... rushing into Quincy Basin ... maybe mention Ephrata Fan?

Nick Zentner (CWU) explains Ice Age Floods at Frenchman Hills summit.
Nick teaching on Frenchman Hills. Explain bottle is Grand Coulee flow. Mention Crater Coulee and Drumheller along with Gorge Concert drainage along with the two he's pouring out of Frenchman and Potholes.
Nick Zentner leads Frenchman Coulee field trip.
Describe this is one of the outlets in Nick's mini-tub. Ellensburg Ice Age Floods Institute Chapter field trip.
Nick Zentner guides hikers to Ice Age Floods feature viewpoint in the channeled scablands.
Nick at left ... explain field trip.
Nick explains the Columbia River Basalt Group.
Nick explains the Columbia River Basalt Group. Note palagonite in the background.

Green Central Rocks, Blue speaker series, Brown Roadside. Brown floods, Yellow volcanic, Red earthquake tsunami. What a mess. Really hate the ones that look like green olives!

Nick Zentner: 'Tsunami in our Future' Brian Atwater: 'Japan's Orphan Tsunami of
1700' Brian Atwater "Tsunami Research"
-Central Rocks Lisa Ely "Paleoflood Research"  -
Central Rocks Nick Zentner "Floods of Lava and
Water" Richard Waitt USGS - Under Construction EWU Geology Professor Gene Kiver discusses
the origins of the Ice Age Floods Institute. Geologist Bruce Bjornstad - The Ice Age
Floods Vic Baker - Missoula Floods and Channeled
Scabland Nick Zentner Roadside Geology - Ice Age
Floods Erratics Nick Zentner Roadside Geology - Frenchman
Coulee Jim O'Connor USGS - Bonneville and Missoula
Floods Roadside Geology Series - Yakima Canyon Nick Zentner: 'Geology of Kittitas Valley' Nick Zentner: 'Mount Stuart: A Closer Look' Tom Sisson: 'Mt. Rainier - America's Most
Threatening Volcano' Nick Zentner: 'Mount Rainier: Past, Present,
& Future' Nick Zentner: 'Slow Earthquakes' Charlie Rubin "Earthquake Research"
- Central Rocks Rex Flake "Puget Sound Tiltmeters"
- Central Rocks Tim Melbourne "GPS in the Northwest"
 - Central Rocks Dan Dzurisin "Mt St Helens in 1980"
- Central Rocks Cynthia Gardner "Cascades Volcano
Observatory" - Central Rocks Tom Sisson "Mount Rainier"  -
Central Rocks Pat Pringle "Cascade Range" -
Central Rocks Wendy Bohrson "Magmas of the
Cascades"  - Central Rocks Cynthia Gardner & Dan Dzurisin
FREE full length geology programming -

View more "Central Rocks" episodes related to the Ice Age Floods:

Taped on the campus of Central Washington University, 'Central Rocks' showcases Washington's spectacular geology - and the geologists who advance our understanding through research. Hosted by CWU senior lecturer Nick Zentner, 'Central Rocks' is a series of interviews with geologists who teach or conduct research in Washington. 'Central Rocks: Roadside Geology', a new spin-off project, is a series of short films shot at selected field locations in Washington.

Geologist Bruce Bjornstad - Click to open video link.
Bruce Bjornstad

PNNL Geologist Bruce Bjornstad discusses Missoula Floods and his popular 'On the Trail of the Ice Age Floods' guidebook series.

Geologist Jim O'Connor - Click to open video link.
Jim O'Connor

USGS Hydrologist Jim O'Connor discusses current research on Washington's Missoula Floods and Idaho's Bonneville Flood.

Nick Zentner interviews Ice Age Floods expert Dr. Victor R. Baker.
Vic Baker

UA Geology Professor Vic Baker discusses his distinguished career devoted to Washington's Channeled Scablands.

Geologist Nick Zentner - Click to open video link.
Nick Zentner

CWU geologist Nick Zentner lectures on eastern Washington's unique landscapes (Floods of lava and floods of water).

All photos by Tom Foster unless otherwise noted.
Screenshots courtesy "Central Rocks"

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