Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D.

Executive Director and Waterkeeper

Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D.
Your full-time Miami Waterkeeper is part investigator, scientist, educator, and legal advocate, functioning as a public spokesperson for our Bay, protecting your right to clean water and empowering you to defend your waterways too!

Rachel Silverstein, Ph.D., joined Miami Waterkeeper as Executive Director & Waterkeeper in June of 2014. As Waterkeeper, Rachel has grown the organization from 1 staff member to over 18 full time staff. Rachel leads team efforts to achieve "water wins", such as protecting corals from dredging, stopping major sewage leaks, passing key legislation. Rachel has been featured in hundreds of press articles, including the New York Times, CNN, National Geographic, and more. As Waterkeeper, Rachel has authored 7 Op-Eds and 6 peer-reviewed scientific articles, given keynote addresses, and speaks to thousands of community members every year.

Rachel is the 2023 winner of the Elevate Prize, a global competition for non-profit leaders seeking to "make good famous". Rachel has also been awarded the Mayor's Pioneer Award (2023), Water Conservationist of the Year by the Florida Wildlife Federation (2022), the Miami Herald Visionary Award (2016), the UM Reitmeister-Abess Center Environmental Stewardship Award (2016), the 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).

Prior to joining MWK, Rachel was a Knauss Sea Grant Fellow and Professional Staff for the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard in Washington, DC. She got SCUBA certified at 14 and has been a diver ever since.

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.

Check out Rachel's media coverage at


Rachel's OpEds

Miami Herald (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 (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

Sun Sentinel (2017) Army Corps' Alternative Facts Bad News for our Reefs



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