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CWU professor’s award-winning geology show renewed for another season

by CONTRIBUTED REPORT/RUNE TORGERSON/CWU
| March 13, 2024 2:38 PM

ELLENSBURG — Since 2017, Nick Zentner has been bringing his love of geology to fans across the world on his Emmy Award-winning show, Nick on the Rocks.

The program chronicles the Central Washington University geological sciences professor exploring the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Pacific Northwest and educating viewers about the natural splendor that lies just beyond their doorstep in eight-minute segments airing via Cascade PBS.

Following a three-year hiatus, the show returned in 2023 for its fifth season. Cascade PBS and CWU agreed in January to renew Nick on the Rocks for season six, which began filming in February.

The show went off the air in 2020 due to the pandemic, along with the departure of Zentner’s on-campus partners. That changed in January 2023, when Cascade PBS reached out to Zentner about getting Nick on the Rocks back on the air in response to demand from dedicated fans from around the world.

“Cascade PBS in Seattle kept getting letters from viewers who were hoping the show would come back,” Zentner said. “They reached out to me to see how they could get it back on the air, and I initially told them I wasn’t interested until they introduced me to Brady Lawrence in January of 2023. We got along immediately, and I just knew he’d be the person to make the Season 5 I wanted to make.”

Shot on location by Zentner and Lawrence, the appeal of the show lies in the intimacy of its presentation and the broad variety of its subject matter.

“Part of the success comes from the engagement that our viewers put in,” Zentner said. “So many people feel like they know me and have been on these adventures with me, which is really heartening."

He added that another reason the program has so much appeal is that there is no shortage of beautiful scenery in Washington state.

“This program clearly showcases a broad variety of those gorgeous places from all across the state and beyond,” Zentner added. “I think people know these places and have pride in them, so seeing them in the spotlight brings them, and me, great joy.”

While the show was originally produced in-house at CWU, Cascade PBS has taken over filming and editing the episodes as part of the renewal agreement. All five seasons are available to stream on the Cascade PBS website. Zentner says his own love for the outdoors is what keeps him going with the project. That passion also keeps his audience engaged, as millions of viewers have tuned in since the program was introduced seven years ago.

“People can feel honest, genuine stuff,” Zentner said. “If there’s love baked into something, humans will respond to that. I’m not just sitting in my office doing a voice-over; we’re out there on location taking in the splendor of nature right alongside you.”