Staff profile: Iñigo Zabarte-Maeztu

Meet Iñigo Zabarte-Maeztu a freshwater ecologist at NIWA.

Iñigo Zabarte-Maeztu is part of NIWA’s freshwater biosecurity team.

What is your area of specialty/role at NIWA?

I am a freshwater ecologist in the Aquatic Plants Group based in Hamilton. I am originally from the Basque Country in northern Spain. I came to New Zealand on a scholarship through NIWA with the University of Waikato in 2017 and recently I completed my PhD on Fine Sediment Effects on estuarine seagrass Z. muelleri (August 2021). I am now mainly focusing on freshwater biosecurity research which aims to improve management of aquatic plants, including the control of invasive species. I am also interested in working towards restoration of macrophytes, particularly seagrass.

What made you made you want to work in that area?

Aquatic macrophyte ecosystems are amongst the most important, and threatened, ecosystems on the planet and they have immense ecological values. If we better understand the effects causing their decline, we may improve conservation and restoration strategies. I see that as a real need. My interest in this area also stems from my experience scuba diving in Spain when I was 13 -years old. I remember diving in seagrass meadows and that sparked my interest in marine ecology and influenced my choice of study at university.

What is the most rewarding achievement in your career so far?

As an early career scientist, I feel fortunate about the opportunity to work at NIWA. I can say I am proud of having published various chapters of my PhD research on international journals. However, having participated in multiple marine, estuarine and freshwater macrophyte ecology projects through my short career is what I am most grateful for. It is helping to progress my knowledge and experience. I started my career researching estuary and marine ecosystems but since joining NIWA I have moved into freshwater lake ecosystems. Estuaries certainly have a lot of connections with freshwater and long term I would like to work towards becoming a restoration ecologist.

What do you like to do outside of your work at NIWA?

Outside work I love playing guitar, singing and I also used to be a keen runner and hope to get back in there again. Underwater photography and diving have been personal interests I explored when I was growing up in Spain. Those two activities inspired my interest in marine science. Now I am lucky to be in a position where I sometimes have the option to use diving and photography as part with my work at NIWA.