MIT Sea Grant Center for Coastal Resources

Hitchhiker Sighting and Verification Instructions

Thank you for responding to our Hitchhikers Guide to Exotic Species. We are trying to document the distribution and frequency of some recent invaders to our New England coasts. We have identified the species of greatest interest in the guide and hope that you can report your sightings of them to us along with some useful information.

We ask that you send in information on what you saw and where you found the organisms. If possible, please take a photograph, an actual specimen (preserved in alcohol that you can purchase at the drug store), or a dried specimen or shell, and send it to us to verify your observation. There are detailed instructions below for each verification method. Even if you cannot send a photo or specimen, you can fill out the forms and we will try to visit the location to confirm your observation. The form has spaces for three organisms, but you can send as many forms as needed (and you can include other introduced species that you find).

Please check back here July 1 for an improved Hitchhhiker's Guide species sighting submission form. You will be able to enter information including:

  • Date of sighting
  • Location of sighting
  • Latitude and Longitude of location (optional but very helpful)
  • Description of location
  • Abundance of species
  • Size of specimens
  • Verification method
There are several ways you can help us to verify a siting of one the species in the pamphlet.

We know that most beachcombers are not professional photographers, so here are some guidelines to help you take a good picture for species identification:

Your photo will need to be as clear as possible to give us a better chance of identifying the species you have found. Please try to center the species in your photograph and make it take up as much room as possible while still being clear. If possible, include an object in the photo that will help give a sense of scale and allow us to estimate the size of your specimen. While a ruler or other measuring device would be best (there is one included on the lower edge of the field guide), a coin, pen or other object will do just fine. Please note that most point and shoot cameras take fuzzy pictures if you are closer than three feet from the specimen, so just try to do the best that you can.

If you choose to use a digital camera to photograph your specimen, please try to send a photograph that is more than 70 dpi (dots per inch) resolution. You will probably have no problem doing this, as most digital cameras automatically use a much higher resolution. You can send your picture as an email attachment to Paper photographs can be mailed to the address below. Any photographs you can send us will be greatly appreciated, and we will try to return them.

Shells/ Dried Specimens
If you would like to send us a dried specimen, we request that you pack it as securely as possible to avoid crushing the specimen while it is in the mail. Wrapping the specimen in several layers of tissue, paper towels, or small bubble wrap (or even surrounding the specimen with left over packing peanuts) and placing it securely in a small box or envelope are all great ways to send the specimen.

Alcohol Preserved Specimens
If you choose to send a preserved specimen, please use a plastic container with a tight lid that will not be crushed in the mail. Place the specimen in the jar and fill it with isopropyl alcohol (available at any drug store). The alcohol does not have to come to the very top of the container, but please try to cover the specimen. Place the closed container inside one or two plastic bags just in case the container leaks. If possible, send the container in a small box containing tissue paper, paper towels, bubble wrap or left over packing peanuts.

In all cases, any help you can give us will be much appreciated. Please remember to properly dispose of any species you may have collected and decided not to keep. In order to avoid more species introductions, try to either return your species to the beach at which you found them or place them in a bag or container containing bleach and dispose of them in a landfill or garbage dumpster.

PLEASE DO NOT SEND LIVE SPECIES. Do your part to avoid foreign species introductions!

Mail specimens and photographs to:

Judith Pederson
MIT Sea Grant
292 Main Street, Bldg E38-300
Cambridge MA 02139


Return to the Hitchhikers Guide to Exotic Species.

Thank you for your assistance in helping us track the distribution and study exotic marine species.


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  this page last updated on: 14 November, 2006