Dr James Ataria was a Deputy Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga for a fixed term 2016 to 2018. He is Senior Lecturer at Lincoln University and an ecotoxicologist at the Cawthron Institute, Nelson and is also an associate trustee of the Tuaropaki Trust and a member of Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao (Māori Advisory Committee to the board of the Environmental Protection Authority).
His research interests are in the development and application of ecotoxicological tools for the assessment of the biological effects and impacts of legacy and new emerging contaminants on culturally significant species and sites (especially freshwater) in New Zealand. He conducts his research within multi-disciplinary/multi-organisational programmes that are firmly embedded in Māori culture and process but with strong linkages to end-user organisations.
This approach interfaces between science and mātauranga Māori (traditional and contemporary Māori knowledge) and explores mechanisms that promote mutual understanding and equality of uptake in policy and decision making with respect to environmental resource management.
What can be learnt and applied now from traditional knowledge and adaptation to future environmental and resource issues?
This project seeks to understand how quickly early Māori society changed from its initial wasteful use of environmental resources soon after the Polynesian migrations, to then live within its ecological means in the face of resource decline pressures. These pressures were largely caused by ongoing extinctions and depletion, compounded by adverse climate change during the period 1350-1900.