Julliet Maphutha

Science Communication Intern
University of the Witwatersrand


One profession that I never thought I would pursue is palaeosciences since working in the medical or engineering fields has always seemed to be the most prestigious professional option. My elementary and high school teachers would approach me and advise me to pursue medicine because ‘I am smart’. I attended public schools, where these two options were dominant, but I knew deep down that none of them resonated with me. I love doing the unusual, doing things differently and operating outside the norm, giving back to the community, and changing the world somehow for a greater course.

When I applied for Honours coming from the school of Animal, Plant, and Environmental Sciences (APES) under Biological Sciences, Palaeontology was my last choice, I was just filling in the gap because the application required three choices. Out of all the three choices, the Palaeosciences Institution responded positively. The first day I came to class, the moment the academic programme was explained, I knew immediately that this is where I belong. I studied the reconstruction of palaeoenvironments from the Late Holocene in Mpumalanga, analysing the impacts of land use change along with climate on the environment using pollen and microcharcoal. Currently, my MSc project focuses on reconstructing the palaeoenvironment and palaeoclimate from Early-Middle Miocene in Central Mozambique using pollen and phytoliths to better understand the ecosystem dynamics of the area. The idea is to use this data for modern ecological trends in our ecosystems and how they are affected by different factors, their recovery, and what we can do to preserve our natural environments.

I love being a part of GENUS because this means that I get to reach out to little girls and boys like me who pretty much do not know exactly what it is that they are searching for yet, what they do know is that the current options do not resonate with them because of their curiosity. GENUS helps to fuel that, inspiring and supporting game changers, people ready to step into the unknown because they know that when they come out, something will be gained and it will have a real impact on science, our society and the environment.


Palaeoecology, Micropalaeontology

Fields of study

Late Holocene, Early-Middle Miocene Ecosystems and Palaeoclimate

Awards and recognition