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The Vol Navy has been a key UT tradition for more than 50 years, brightening up the Tennessee River waterfront during home football weekends.

Now, a different kind of Volunteer spirit is taking care of the water upon which the boats rely.

The “Hyrdolunteers” were formed in 2015 as a way for students from varying backgrounds to come together to better understand, protect, and preserve water resources in East Tennessee.

“The main goal of our organization is to encourage collaboration between students with common interests in all things related to water and the environment,” said Brandy Manka, a recent graduate of civil and environmental engineering in the Tickle College of Engineering who is now an undergraduate research assistant in the department.

“We believe it is important to get the conversation started between people who wouldn’t normally interact over the course of their education.”

The group, which began in engineering, recently expanded to include students in biology, ecology, geography, geology, and sociology as well, at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

The group combined the student chapters of American Water Resources Association and American Water Works Association/Water Environment Association.

Its outreach efforts have included stream cleanups, lessons in water conservation, and social gatherings.

“For example, as part of Make Orange Green efforts, we screened the movie Killing the Colorado, which highlights the water-related problems the western US faces,” said Manka. “We also held a water conservation presentation in Presidential Court and took part in a cleanup of Second Creek.”

This semester, Manka said the group would be focusing on making a difference on campus and in the surrounding community.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,