Rachel Silverstein

Executive Director and Waterkeeper

Rachel Silverstein
Miami Waterkeeper and Executive Director, Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D., is a renowned marine biologist and environmental advocate dedicated to safeguarding clean water and marine ecosystems in South Florida.

A scuba diver since her teens, Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D., joined Miami Waterkeeper as Executive Director & Waterkeeper in June 2014. Equal parts investigator, scientist, educator, and legal advocate, Dr. Silverstein blends her expertise in coral reef ecology with a passion for environmental justice to protect and preserve the Biscayne Bay watershed. She leads the Miami Waterkeeper team (Policy, Education and Outreach, Operations, Technology, Marketing and Development) as they work to protect South Florida’s waters by advocating for resilient solutions grounded in science, rooted in nature, and driven by community. As a sought-after speaker on stages across the globe, she shares her extensive knowledge and insights on marine ecology, environmental policy, and water conservation. Her keynotes, driven by her passion for environmental advocacy, have resonated with audiences worldwide, emphasizing the urgency of protecting our water resources.

Rachel received a Ph.D. in the Department of Marine Biology and Fisheries from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science in 2012. Her research focused on the effect of climate change on reef corals, funding in part by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, for which she used genetic methods to answer ecological questions. Rachel graduated cum laude in 2006 from Columbia University with a B.S. degree in Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology.



  • Elevate Prize (2023)
  • Mayor's Pioneer Award, In the Company of Women (2023)
  • Water Conservationist of the Year, Florida Wildlife Federation (2022)
  • Miami Herald Visionary Award (2016)
  • UM Reitmeister-Abess Center Environmental Stewardship Award (2016)
  • Diatom Award for Environmental and Civic Activism by the City of Miami Beach (2015), and was named top 20 environmentalists in South Florida by The New Times (2016)


In the Media

Rachel has appeared in more than 150 publications and has presented on many panels. Below are some of her recent contributions. More coverage can be found at

  • (2024) Invest in Innovation to Reverse Damage Done to Coral Reefs, Build Coastal Resilience - The Invading Seas
  • (2024) The Erin Brockovich Effect - Air Mail
  • (2024) Resilience by Design [Panel] - Knight Foundation Media Forum 2024
  • (2023) Making South Florida a Model for Clean Water [Podcast] - WLRN Sundial
  • (2021) Safety concerns at Turkey Point are rising, along with the sea level - Miami Herald
  • (2017) Toshiba won’t be building FPL’s nuclear reactors. Customers should not have to keep paying - Miami Herald
  • (2017) Army Corps' Alternative Facts Bad News for our Reefs - Sun Sentinel 
  • (2016)  State of Florida wants to add more dangerous chemicals to our water - Miami Herald
  • (2015) Port expansion damaged unique coral reefs - Miami Herald
  • (2014) Legal settlement a win for Miami and our bay - Miami Herald


Civic Engagement

  • Appointed by Commissioner Ken Russell to the City of Miami Sea Level Rise Advisory Board (2016-2017)
  • Appointed by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava to the Miami Dade County Biscayne Bay Shoreline Development Review Committee (2016-ongoing)
  • Miami Fellow with the Miami Foundation (2016-2017)
  • New Leaders Council Institute (2016)


Scientific Publications

Cunning, R., Silverstein, R. N., Barnes, B. B., & Baker, A. C. (2019). Extensive coral mortality and critical habitat loss following dredging and their association with remotely-sensed sediment plumes. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 145, 185–199.

Cunning, R., Silverstein, R.N. & Baker, A.C. Coral Reefs (2018) 37: 145. ** Winner: Best paper of the year in the Journal Coral Reefs**

Silverstein R, Cunning R, Baker AC (2017) Tenacious D: Symbiodinium in clade D remain in reef corals at both high and     low temperature extremes despite impairment. Journal of Experimental Biology.

Barnes BB, Hu C, Kovach C, Silverstein R (2015) Sediment plumes induced by the Port of Miami dredging: Analysis and    interpretation using Landsat and MODIS data. Remote Sensing of the Environment

Cunning R, Silverstein R, Baker AC (2015) Investigating the causes and consequences of symbiont shuffling in a multi-       partner coral symbiosis under environmental change. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biology

Pelc R, … Silverstein R (2015) Further action on bycatch could boost U.S. fisheries performance. Marine Policy 56:56-60.

Silverstein R, Cunning R, Baker AC (2014) Change in algal symbiont communities after bleaching, not prior heat exposure, increases heat tolerance of reef corals. Global Change Biology DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12706.

Silverstein R, Correa AMS, Baker AC (2012) Specificity is rarely absolute in coral-algal symbiosis: Implications for coral    response to climate change.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Biology 279(1738):2609-18.

Silverstein R (2010) Bracing for oil.  Science 239: 388.

Silverstein R, Correa AMS, LaJeunesse TC, Baker AC (2011) Novel algal symbiont (Symbiodinium spp.) diversity in reef    corals of Western Australia.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 422:63-75.

Kenkel C,… Silverstein R, et al. Development of gene expression markers of acute heat-light stress in reef-building corals    of the genus Porites. PLoS One 6: e26914