George William Mallory Harrison

William enjoying a Spring day in Leiden

My research focuses on using modern methods to answer ancient questions. I will be analyzing shifts in reef carbonate producers in the coral triangle in the Neogene at fine stratigraphic detail. In order to generate enough data for these analyses, I am developing an AI that can identify carbonate producing clades in thin sections and the area of each thin section that is occupied by each clade.


coral reefs, coral triangle, paleoecology, thin sections, machine learning, artificial intelligence, Pliocene

G. William M. Harrison

Early Stage Researcher
4D-REEF Program
Marine Biodiversity


I have been collecting fossils since I was a small child and never lost my interest in ancient reefs fauna.

In my bachelor's and master's studies, I was often confronted with problems that could be solved with analyses of the innumerable thin sections that exist in collections around the world. However, extracting quantitative data from these thin sections is a time-consuming task that prevents many interesting analyses. I seek to apply machine learning methods to train a computer to do years worth of analyses in seconds, ushering in a new era of large data studies based on existing and new thin sections!

A thin section from a bryozoan reef. A computer could determine porosity in an instant


A selection of the topics I am working on currently.

shingle rampart lumulumu

4D-REEF Research Programme

Coral reefs are having a hard time. Reefs in the Coral Triangle stand out for their species richness, yet they are in close proximity to areas with high human population densities. Ongoing anthropogenic environmental changes in the sea, on land and in the…
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Coral reef murky water

(Paleo)ecology of turbid reef ecosystems

When you see coral reefs appearing in nature documentaries, these are usually situated in high visibility, clear water conditions. This is also where the paradigm that coral reefs in nutrient poor conditions originates. However, coral reef ecosystems occur…
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Ecology Indo-Pacific reefs

Ecology Indo-Pacific reefs

Understanding the biotic response to both local and global environmental change, as well as the underpinning processes, is crucial for assessing vulnerability and guiding efforts to avoid potentially severe biodiversity loss.
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