A marine biologist, John Burt uses the Arabian Gulf as a natural laboratory to study coral reef ecology in extreme environments and to understand how these may serve as a model for the possible impacts of future climate change on reefs elsewhere. His 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.
Burt was organizer of the recent Coral Reefs of the Gulf conference (2012) which brought together leading regional and international scientists from 19 different countries who are studying marine systems in the Gulf and surrounding seas and is the co-founder of the Mideast Coral Reef Society which was initiated in 2013.
Earlier, he held a United Nations University fellowship for research on the ecological implications of coastal development, and had served as assistant department chair and taught numerous courses at Zayed University in Dubai. He has supervised undergraduate or graduate research from students at New York University Abu Dhabi (UAE), Universidade do Porto (Portugal), Zayed University (UAE), the American University of Sharjah (UAE), and the University of Nottingham (UK). He currently advises and provides capacity-building to a number of state and national governmental agencies in the Gulf.
Burt collaborates with other science professors at NYU Abu Dhabi to develop the Foundations of Science cross-disciplinary curriculum for science and engineering majors, where he teaches the ecology and biodiversity components, as well as part of the Ideas and Methods of Science curriculum for non-majors, including the courses The Desert: Life in an Arid Environment and Where the City Meets the Sea: Ecological Implications of Coastal Urbanization.
He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and his B.S. from Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia, Canada.