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Coastal Heritage Sites at Risk

Coastal Heritage Sites at Risk

Brooke Tucker and Professor Atholl Anderson examine site stratigraphy during an excavation to salvage eroding archaeological material on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island. Photo: Johannes FischerBrooke Tucker and Professor Atholl Anderson examine site stratigraphy during an excavation to salvage eroding archaeological material on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island. Photo: Johannes FischerCoastal movement and erosion are serious issues for the preservation and management of cultural heritage in this country. Numerous archaeological sites throughout New Zealand, particularly areas of first settlement, are situated on coastlines and at estuaries and river mouths. Over the last two decades, Brooke Tucker (currently an archaeology PhD candidate at the University of Otago) has worked on many coastal sites where pre-contact Māori archaeology has been exposed and damaged by erosion.

Integrating cultural and environmental management practices in coastal landscapes can be mutually beneficial. As the archaeologist for the Whenua Hou Diving Petrel project (run by Johannes Fischer, Victoria University of Wellington), Brooke has recently been monitoring dune movement on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island where erosion threatens both the diving petrel colony and several previously recorded archaeological sites. This work identified accelerated erosion (both tidal and riverine) at a significant archaeological site on the island. In September 2019 a salvage excavation took place, revealing several layers of both pre-contact and historic occupation and dense deposits of archaeological material. Analysis of this rescued material will contribute to our understanding of New Zealand’s past.

Conference registrations for 2020 are now open

Registrations for our conference in Southland (Coastal Treasures of Murihiku Southland 18-20 March) are now open. There is a reduced rate for early birds and if you want to join our post-conference Stewart Island trip it is especially important to book soon.

For information and a booking link go to our conference page.

News from TK Yukate, our 2019 scholarship recipient

Tēnā koutou

In the last couple of months, I have been working on cleaning the data that I was able to retrieve from past authors. Cleaning data has been time-consuming, but it is an important step because the old datasets need to be consistent for it to be compared against my current data. I have also had the opportunity to present my research at the Three Minutes Thesis competition. This challenges postgraduates to condense our research and speak to a general audience about our research under 3 minutes. The opportunity to speak earlier in the year at the CRT conference in Warkworth helped with my nerves, but I also learnt that presenting to a general audience with a strict time limit has unique challenges. I was also asked to present at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust board meeting. Similarly, to CRT, they were interested in my quest in searching for data and found it relevant for their own funded research.

From my research in data discovery, I have learnt that it is easy for data to be lost due to multiple reasons. Studies have shown that the older the paper, the chances of obtaining data decreases exponentially. Therefore, it is important to consider not only uploading the raw data in an online data-sharing platform but also attaching the meta-data to the information. Meta-data is essentially a very detailed description of the data that was collected and all the factors involved. This is so, for example, someone who was not involved in collecting can understand and utilise the data, even decades after it was collected. I have been luckier than most as I have managed to track down past researchers, and they are incredibly responsive and helpful. Also, from my own experience, data being saved in proprietary software is a major accessibility issue.

I’ve also been writing my descriptive chapters researching more into the history of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary and the complex relationships the site has undergone in the last 200 years. This has further supported my chapter about keeping data safe and accessible, as I came across maps, pictures, and water table data from the late 1800s to earlier 1900s of the Avon-Heathcote. It was stuffed in a thesis written in the 70s which had been referenced several times since in later publications. I have not seen a copy digitally available online and have the physical version of it on my desk. The photos themselves are already falling out of the book and these are likely the last surviving copies of them.

I am very excited to be nearing the end of my thesis, and look forward to wherever my work takes me in the future.

2014 scholarship recipient completes his thesis.

From Mike Fake:

What ever happened to that guy who got the CRT postgraduate award in 2014?


In other news:

I finally finished my thesis earlier this year. In 2014 I was awarded the then Dune Restoration Trust award for my (somewhat foolishly?) ambitious MSc. project looking at the use of drones for monitoring coastal dune ecosystems. What started as a multi-year study of two different sites involving vegetation and invertebrate studies gradually turned into a comprehensive single year, single site analysis of the dune vegetation at Kaitorete Spit. But hey, good things come to those who wait, right?

So what are UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) like for coastal monitoring? It depends. In my study, I compared good honest field work data to that gathered via Remote Sensing (aerial imagery). Because of the physical and biological complexity of Kaitorete Spit (a beautiful and ecologically significant barrier beach complex between Lake Waihora/Ellesmere and the Pacific Ocean), my broad-scale imagery data for the site was only really useful at detecting coarse-scale habitat and vegetation features and patterns. Large significant species were able to be identified with a strong degree of confidence, however small or rare species with low detectability proved more complicated. Low detection can result from things not being able to be found in the field, but also a failure to properly locate them in the imagery.

So if image data quality is the issue, why not just go out and get as much high-resolution data as possible? While this may be feasible for small scale studies, for a site such as Kaitorete Spit, which is relatively large, the handling, storage and processing of such large datasets are often out of reach for small community groups. The concepts of scale in ecology and data collection have long been applied for field based data collection. What’s important for the future of remote sensing in ecology is the ability to bring these principles in scientific design into modern data science. We need to let technology serve and build our scientific understanding, rather than letting us be led by the technology itself.”

To read Mike’s thesis, check our Postgraduate Scholarship page, or find it in our data base.

Iwi Accord group leads the way with beach plantings

Iwi Accord members, together with Sustainable Whanganui, in which Lyn & Graham Pearson from Castlecliff Coastcare are also heavily involved, planted 800 sand-binding pingao and spinifex coastal plants on the fore dunes of South Beach near Kaitoke River on Sunday, 22 September 2019.

This is not the beach where Lyn & Graham usually do their work with volunteers and school groups. It is good to see that other parts of the Whanganui coastline are getting work done too.

To read the full story click on the article on the right.