Paul Gamache is a professional raft guide and whitewater kayaker from Arcata, CA. In January of 2013, Paul traveled to Cameroon, West Africa to explore an area of the world nearly untouched by whitewater exploration. Teaming up with ASC, Paul was able to combine collecting beetle specimens while exploring endless whitewater.
Paul Gamache lining up for a waterfall on the Meme River. Photo by Stuart Martindale.
Beetles. I honestly never gave them much consideration or wanted anything to do with them. That all changed when I got connected with ASC.
I left Arcata, California in January of 2013 and headed to Cameroon, West Africa in search of whitewater. As I was packing my bags I received an email from my friend Haven Livingston. She had just had written an article for International Rivers on “citizen science” and went on to tell me about the work ASC was doing.
Excited about adding value to the kayaking expedition as well as helping out others with their research, I filled out the info request on the ASC website. Within a short time ASC had connected my exploratory whitewater kayaking expedition with a group of scientists who were looking to study beetle specimens from the area. After a Skype meeting with ASC in the U.S. and a scientist currently in Kenya, I started collecting beetles.
Paul Gamache and Stuart Martindale celebrate their successful 1st descent of the Ombe River and this exciting 15′ waterfall. Photo by Paul Gamache
Besides the fear of discovering a poisonous beetle in Cameroon or potentially being bitten by something, collecing sampels was awesome. It turned out to be much easier than I had anticipated. At night small beetles would fly into my apartment and it was just a matter of catching them and putting them in a zip-lock and adding alcohol. While on the river, beetles would land on my kayak during lunch breaks and I would collect them in a Nalgene.
During the six months I spent in Cameroon I was fortunate to come across many different types of beetles. Sometimes they were crawling across the floor of the house or stuck on the windows. What would have previously been considered nothing more than a bug or pest now had greater meaning. The thought of discovering a new species of beetle became almost as exciting for me as coming across a perfectly runnable waterfall in the jungle. Before leaving Cameroon I took photos of the different beetles and put together a short video (below) to share some of the experience.