Prof. Zentner rocks into new season on PBS


Nick On The Rocks is a popular show about geology on KCTS 9. It is hosted by CWU’s own professor, who is also a nationally recognized geologist, Nick Zentner. Season 3 of the show beings January 24th and will be screened here on campus.

Matt Escamilla, Staff Reporter

Nick Zentner, a senior lecturer at CWU in geology, has the opportunity to tell geological stories by hosting a show called “Nick on the Rocks.” The series is a five minute program shown sporadically throughout the week, on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in-between its main programs.

CWU is hosting a season three premiere of “Nick on the Rocks” on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in the SURC Theater. The event is free to attend, and all six episodes will be shown.

Chris Smart works at CWU in video production. According to Zentner, they began working together in 2005, when CWU had an interview show called “Central Rocks.”

When the show first started in 2017, Zentner asked himself who the show was made for and why.

“I’ve realized this NOR series is trying to reach an audience that wouldn’t otherwise be interested in geology,” Zentner said.

In order to get the non-traditional geology viewer to watch, Zentner and Smart needed to make visuals a top priority.

“We live in a beautiful part of the country, [and] geology is one of the main reasons it’s beautiful,” Zentner said.

In order to showcase the Pacific Northwest’s beauty, “Nick on the Rocks” needed a third member on the team to help capture the visuals.

“The drone video is the hallmark of the series,” Zentner said.

According to smart, the drone is a “DJI Phantom Four.” It allows the show to get different types of footage such as “overview” shots

Smart says viewers will see Zentner knee deep and covered in mud in a tidal marsh. According to Wikipedia, “a tidal marsh (also known as a “tidal wetland”) is a marsh found along rivers, coasts and estuaries which floods and drains by the tidal movement of the adjacent estuary, sea or ocean.”

Smart attributes the show’s originality as a reason for the shows success, along with geology fans waiting for a program like “Nick on the Rocks”.

“We have a highly original concept. In some ways, we didn’t have to take the time to develop the audience because the audience was already there. Waiting for us,“ Smart said. “Nick’s fans have an appetite for geology. They are [the] reason for the program’s success. Without their support NOR would not be possible.”

“Nick on the Rocks” success has allowed the show to expand into new tv markets this season according to Chief of Staff Office of the President, and “Nick on the Rocks” executive producer, Linda Schactler.

“This year we are expanding to Oregon Public Broadcasting, KSPS for the Inland Empire, and Idaho Public Broadcasting,” Schactler said.

According to Schactler, no other universities in the Pacific Northwest have content on PBS, which highlights the quality of CWU’s academic programs, particularly in geology. She also said that without the partnership with PBS, the show would only be streamed on CWU’s website.

Last year, “Nick on the Rocks” had a partnership with PBS affiliate KCTS which broadcasts from Vancouver BC, throughout western Washington into the lower Yakima valley according to Zentner.

Smart says Zentner has an easy going and laid back attitude, which has helped the show’s success.

“Nick is the same off camera as he is on. What you see is what you get  He has a passion for geology, strong belief in education, and the ability to make his audience feel connected,” Smart said.

According to Zentner, season four has not been given the green light by PBS yet. However, Zentner and Smart will begin production for season four this summer with the assumption that season four is planned by the network.