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Seymour Piehler

UNC Institute for the Environment (IE) Board Member Frances Seymour (’81) and her husband, Michael Kopetski, a former Congressman from Oregon, hosted nearly 30 guests in their Washington, D.C., home May 23 for a meet and greet with incoming IE director Michael Piehler (’90, ’94, ’97).

“One of the reasons we built this house was to demonstrate that you can build an environmentally friendly house. The other reason we built this house was to be able to host events like this—whether you know it or not, you guys are getting the first one,” Seymour said in her brief welcome remarks. “This is really great to bring together two communities. One is a community who cares about UNC and went to Carolina, but also people who care about the environment.”

Carolina alumni and friends of the environment gathered in the couple’s green home to hear from Piehler and other Institute staff about some of the research, education and outreach initiatives of the Institute and Piehler’s plans for leading the Institute in a renewed environmental landscape at Carolina.

“I think most of you know Carolina is full of environmental excellence,” he said. “There are lots of organizations focused on environmental issues throughout the University and one of the roles that we play in the Institute for the Environment is being a convener. As a University, we’ve done a great deal of strategic planning—about three years’ worth of strategic planning—so it is time for strategic action. We’ve done remarkable things at Carolina, but I really believe the best is ahead. We have been given the charge to go forward and do good things.”

Piehler assumes the directorship July 1. He is an expert on the ecology and biogeochemistry of land-water interfaces and the connection between human activity and the function of natural systems. Piehler holds joint appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Marine Sciences and the Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Environmental Science and Engineering (ESE).

Seymour is a distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute (WRI) where she studies and writes on forest and governance issues and advises on major initiatives of WRI. She also is lead author of the book, Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change.

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