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Hunt Named Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for Environmental Work
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Hunt Named Robert Sparks Walker Lifetime Achievement Award Winner for Environmental Work

Christine Hunt, whose passion and lifelong work as a horticulturalist has made a positive impact on Tennessee, was named the 2021 Robert Sparks Walker Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Governors Environmental Stewardship Awards, administered by Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), include this award. The announcement was made today at an annual awards luncheon.

David Salyers, TDEC Commissioner, said that Christine Hunt has had a remarkable life in the protection and appreciation of our environment. Her tireless work at Tennessee Aquarium and her dedication to Tennessee River Rescue over many decades have made her a champion for the environment as well as an inspiration to many who have been under her leadership. We are proud and honored to present Christine with the lifetime achievement award.

Hunt is a former horticulturalist at Tennessee State Aquarium, Chattanooga. Hunt worked there for more than 30 years. She was a mentor to hundreds of horticulture volunteers and instilled in them a love for living forests. Her passion for nature, and her leadership in conservation, have extended beyond the Tennessee Aquarium.

In 1988, she started Tennessee River Rescue with a small group volunteers. The group cleaned up waterways around Chattanooga. The group cleaned the banks and tributaries of the Tennessee River in just two zones the first year. Three decades later, more than 800 volunteers collected more than 4,000 bags of trash from 20 areas in three counties during the annual rescue event.

Volunteers from Tennessee River Rescue have been trained and have the experience to expand the cleanups to other areas. To collect submerged trash, some zones use experienced divers. Some areas require boats to reach the trash and collect it. Volunteers are challenged to find the most interesting trash. Previous items include shopping carts, sofas, false teeth, and shopping carts.

Hunt proposed a pollution tank to Aquarium’s exhibits committee after years of Tennessee River Rescue. This was to raise awareness about pollution in Tennessee’s waterways. The Aquarium’s fan favorite is the tank. The Tennessee River Rescue has helped with river cleanups in Alabama, Tennessee, and other parts of Tennessee. Hunt has been involved in the study of butterflies for many years and has led international trips for Aquarium members to visit butterfly farms.

Hunt was a native plant specialist at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center before joining the Tennessee Aquarium. She received her master’s degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Environmental Science. There she also founded an Earth Day celebration in 1990.

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