A growing fraction of the human population and economic activity is concentrating at coastal cities, exerting a high impact on the natural environment and giving rise to new social conflicts. Many harbours around the world share the same environmental, social and economic concerns, with some more particular to certain harbours. Building trans-boundary partnerships to the share the issues and the research undertaken, duplication of effort can be reduced, solutions can be strengthened and improvements can be globalised.
John Burt is an Associate Professor of Biology and Head of the Marine Biology Lab at New York University Abu Dhabi. Burt’s group use the thermally extreme Arabian/Persian Gulf as a natural laboratory to study the possible future implications of climate change on coral reef organisms, with current projects ongoing in a number of countries throughout the Arabian region as well as elsewhere. The Gulf has also experienced rapid and extensive growth in coastal urbanization in the past several decades, and Burt’s research has explored the ecological implications of the increasingly urbanized seascapes in the region. He also advises a number of state and national agencies in the region on conservation of coastal ecosystems and more sustainable coastal development practices.
Burt’s current research seeks to examine how coral communities in these extreme environments respond to and recover from mass bleaching events, and how variation in environmental conditions affect biogeographic patterns of community structure of corals, fish, and other reef biota in the region. He also has several post-doctoral researchers studying the molecular biology of corals and their zooxanthellae to understand how corals cope in the uniquely extreme environment of the Gulf. In addition, Burt continues to study the ecological and management implications of coastal developments in urban areas, and seeks to develop more sustainable coastal management practices in the Gulf.