man by the ocean
John Burns
woman in ocean with tablet
Testing a prototype of the underwater tablet.

A novel proposal by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa zoology graduate student John Burns has earned him a coveted spot as a finalist in the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.

The award is given for a new or ongoing project anywhere in the world with a capacity to improve lives or protect the world’s natural and cultural heritage and is targeted to innovators under 30 years of age. Burns is one of 22 finalists chosen from a pool of over 1,800 applicants in 129 countries and is the only finalist from the United States.

His idea is to develop waterproof electronic tablets to promote community-based monitoring and conservation of coral reef ecosystems in Hawaiʻi, where the coastal populations depend on marine resources.

Unlike some monitoring tools that are expensive and difficult to customize, Burns’ tablet includes software that easily aggregates user-collected information, including photos, and saves it to a secure online database. The same tools can then perform automated data summaries, trend mapping and graphical display of the data.

The winners of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise will be announced in June 2014. Five Young Laureates of the Rolex Awards will receive a monetary award of more than $56,000 to support their projects.

More about John Burns

A resident of Pāpaʻikou on Hawaiʻi Island, Burns earned his master’s degree in tropical conservation biology and environmental science at UH Hilo and is currently a PhD candidate in the zoology program, Department of Biology, College of Natural Sciences at UH Mānoa. He works in the Gates Lab at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology, part of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology.

Burns has been featured in UH News a few times, for his work on coral reef monitoring.