Paleontologist: Dr. Fredrick Kyalo Manthi

Paleontologist: Dr. Fredrick Kyalo Manthi

Dr. Fredrick Manthi is a paleontologist who works at the National Museums of Kenya and with the Turkana Basin Institute.

Grades

6 - 12+

Subjects

Geology

Fredrick is a senior research scientist and head of the paleontology section at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi, Kenya. He works closely with the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) in the remote Lake Turkana area of the country, and occasionally instructs paleontology courses at the TBI Field School.

EARLY WORK

Fredrick grew up in Machakos, near the large urban area of Nairobi, Kenya's capital. His father worked with British paleontologist and archaeologist Mary Leakey in the 1970s, "so he used to bring me lots of books on paleontology when I was in high school," Fredrick says. "That is what created my passion for paleontology."

Fredrick says reading about the new paleontology discoveries by Mary Leakey and her son, Richard Leakey, was very inspiring to him as a young adult. Today, Fredrick works closely with Richard, his wife Meave, and his daughter Louise Leakey at the Turkana Basin Institute.

The budding scientist earned his PhD in paleontology from the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, before returning home to Kenya.

MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK

Fredrick is now leading two expeditions in the Turkana Basin region. "It's a great thing in my life," he says. "It's a big achievement."

MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK

"As an African scholar, it is not always very easy to get funding from organizations largely because [in] Kenya, being an African country, they don't provide funding for paleontologists or even for scientists. So I have to write proposals, and I have to compete with scholars from other countries across the world for funding."

HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?

"In simple terms, I understand geography as the study of the Earth's natural and manmade features, which includes landscapes—including features such as mountains, lakes, dams, etc.—environments, places, and how people relate to these features."

GEO-CONNECTION

Fredrick says geography is important to paleontologists. "Obviously when I go to Turkana, where I work and I find new fossils, I also have to relate those fossils to other sites in other parts of Africa and the rest of the world," he says. "So basically geography plays a very key role in that area."

He says the use of geographic tools is essential in paleontological field work. "I use GPS all the time," Fredrick says. "Every single fossil that I find in the field, I record the GPS coordinates of that particular site."

SO, YOU WANT TO BE A ... PALEONTOLOGIST

"Being able to get out there in the field, I think is very critical," Fredrick says.

GET INVOLVED

Fredrick says students interested in paleontology can volunteer with excellent programs offered by The National Museums of Kenya, the Turkana Basin Institute, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and the Natural History Museum in London, England.

Fast Fact

Prehistory Club
Fredrick Manthi is the founder and chairman of the Prehistory Club of Kenya, whose mission is to educate young people about Kenyas prehistoric heritage. The Prehistory Club offers lectures on prehistory and human evolution to high school and university students across Kenya. You can visit the Prehistory Club of Kenya's website here.

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Writer
Stuart Thornton
Editors
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
Page Producer
Andy Hess
Producer
National Geographic Society
other
Last Updated

May 20, 2022

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