Maria Jesus Gutierrez Gines
Maria's main field of research is the phytomanagement of biowaste and degraded soils – or more simply – using plants to solve environmental problems.
Her work involves numerous disciplines, such as soil science, plant science, soil-plant interactions, soil microbiology, ecotoxicology, ecological restoration, soil and water interactions, and environmental education.
She leads the Biowaste Team at ESR which work closely with other ESR’s teams and other research organisations in a transdisciplinary way with the vision of a New Zealand with all its biowaste beneficially reused and recycled with maximised environmental, social, cultural and economic outcomes.
She is coordinating projects to use New Zealand native vegetation – mainly mānuka and kānuka – to restore river and lake margins, in order to improve water quality affected by farming activities and biowaste discharges. Working with local communities, iwi, regional and district councils, Maria is carrying out field experiments at Lake Waikare in the Waikato and Lake Wairarapa in the Wairarapa.
The wonder of plants has never stopped surprising Maria. In her PhD at Alcala University and the Centre for Environmental Sciences, CSIC (Spain), she studied the plant communities that naturally thrived in soils highly contaminated by trace elements (cadmium, lead, arsenic, zinc, copper) and organic contaminants (like PCBs, and PAHs), and how to use those plants and their associated microorganisms to remediate those soils.
During her Postdoctorate at Lincoln University (New Zealand), she proved how pioneer native plants that usually grow in very low fertility environments can grow on the biowaste-amended soils. She even demonstrated that some of these plants 'choose' to grow in biowaste if they are given the choice.
Maria has also worked in research centres such as Hasselt University (Belgium), L’Ecole National de Travaux Agricoles de Clermont-Ferrand (France), Colorado State University (USA) and the Institute of Socio-Educative Research (Dominican Republic).
Maria's ResearchGate profile(external link).
More information about ESR's mānuka and kānuka project to improve water quality.