Nick came to Ellensburg in 1992 to join 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, 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 (KCWU broadcast) 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.
Nick uses small basin to illustrate Ice Age Flood spillover channels during field trip. Water flowing out of tub represents Potholes and Frenchman Coulees.