Rachel Silverstein ’06

Alyssa Carvara

As an environmental biology major, Rachel Silverstein ’06 had a transformative experience studying the reefs of Western Australia. Her passion for coral led her to grad school in the Sunshine State, where she is now executive director of Miami Waterkeeper, a nonprofit that advocates for South Florida waterways.

Silverstein’s Miami Waterkeeper work focuses on three primary areas — clean water, habitat protection and sea level rise — and she has had some major water wins during her nine years on the job. During the 2013 dredging of the Port of Miami, many endangered coral species were killed; the organization filed an Endangered Species Act suit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the damage. As part of the settlement, Miami Waterkeeper was able to have 10,000 corals replaced in the bay; today, they are once again reproducing in the wild.

Silverstein scored another big achievement by highlighting how climate change will continue to affect the nearby Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station (it is predicted to be underwater by 2040). Thanks to her organization challenging the extension of the station’s operating license, all U.S. nuclear power plants will now be subject to a full environmental review before having their licenses renewed.

In January, Silverstein was awarded a prestigious Elevate Prize, which recognized her impact as a global leader and social entrepreneur, receiving a $250,000 unrestricted grant to continue her work to protect waterways and educate the public.

Silverstein can now plan for the next decade, using what she has learned locally to shape the world. “Sea level rise resiliency is critically important in Miami because of our low elevation and porous geology,” she says. “And if we can solve problems related to climate change here, we can scale our work to be applicable almost anywhere.”

Anne-Ryan Sirju JRN’09