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auckland war memorial museum 2006 |2007 There have been two excavations on shore whaling sites. The first was at the 1840s station at Oashore on Banks Peninsula, unusual for the well-preserved remains of stone chimneys and a stone-built hut marking the whalers' settlement. Te Hoe on Mahia Peninsula was set up in the mid-1840s and played a significant part in an industry which carried onin northern Hawke's Bay into the early 20th century, targeting smaller species after the preferred right whale and humpback were killed off.The historical research side of the project focuses on particular historiesof the two sites and their regions, and also the place of shore whalingin the wider history of New Zealand. Of particular interest is therole whalers played in early contact with Maori as the first Pakehacommunities in many parts of the country. Stitchbirds Curator of Land Vertebrates Brian Gill has been involved in exciting research that showed that the stitchbird or hihi belongs in a family ofits own, rather than with the tui and bellbird in the honeyeater familyas previously supposed. Analysis of gene sequences showed that the stitchbird is not a honeyeater, nor does it have any close relatives other than a distant relationship to the New Zealand wattlebirds, a familythat includes the kokako and extinct huia. Because the relationship isdistant, and the stitchbird is clearly not a wattlebird, it requires a familyof its own. The research was by an international team comprising molecular biologists and museum staff from America, Australia and Auckland. The results show the importance of taxonomic expertise and of natural history collections. Tissue samples for the genetic research were obtained from museum birds. Shore flies A collection of shore flies, some of which had been in the museum's collections for 40-plus years, were borrowed by an overseas researcher. Among these specimens, he recognised four new species and createdtype specimens from them. Two of the new species, Zalea earlyi and Zalea wisei are named after entomology staff John Early and Keith Wise who had collected them during field work on the Hauraki Gulf islands and Great Barrier Island. All the borrowed specimens and the new types are now back in the Museum's collections. Rangitoto botanical survey During 2005-07, the Auckland Botanical Society intensively surveyed Auckland's iconic Rangitoto Island, recording all plants seen. Voucher specimens were collected for all new records and deposited into theMuseum herbarium. A total of 319 specimens were added (mainly flowering plants and algae) bringing the herbarium total for that islandnow to 2,235 collections. Voucher specimens are the proof of the record and because of taxonomic changes are invaluable when sorting out pastliterature records. Two of the earliest collections by Thomas Cheeseman in the 1880s are now thought to be extinct on the island: a Cooks'scurvy grass (Lepidium flexicaule) and a willow-herb (Epilobium komarovianum). The Society's work culminated in publication of a new book Natural History of Rangitoto Island. A surprising new record for Rangitoto Island was a 20 m-tall native miro tree on the northwestern part of the island which was spotted during a surveillance flight looking for wildling pines Early's shore fly. of Botany.