Microplastics research team

ESR’s Dr Olga Pantos and Dr Grant Northcott from Northcott Research Consultants Ltd lead the national research programme Aotearoa Impacts and Mitigation of Microplastics (AIM²).  

Dr Olga Pantos is a marine microbial ecologist. Since completing her degree in marine and environmental biology she has studied the impacts of anthropogenic (human caused) stressors on marine ecosystems. She was a panel member of the PM’s Chief Science Advisor’s Rethinking Plastics project(external link) and on the scientific advisory panel for the UNEA’s Marine Litter and Microplastics Expert Group.

Within the AIM² project her research focus is in determining the levels of microplastics in different ecosystem, and the interactions and impacts of these microplastics on microbial communities which are critical to the health and function of all ecosystems.

Dr Grant Northcott is an environmental analytical chemist with expertise on the fate and effects of organic contaminants in the environment. He leads the contaminant chemistry research within the AIM² project, examining the interactions between the plastic polymers and inherent and acquired chemical contaminants which play a critical role in the risk the plastic poses to the environment. 

The research team

The research team includes students from the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury. They are looking for the chemical contaminants that become associated with the plastics in the environment, and/or that are released into the environment, the microbes’ ability to fully degrade the plastics, plastics in soils, their sources and impacts on soil health, the effects of plastics on marine biosecurity, plastics in freshwater systems, and potential impacts on the ecology, and the ecotoxicological effects of plastics and their associated chemicals, inherent or acquired.