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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Mark Harrison

Dr Mark Harrison

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

 The Farmhouse 


The Farmhouse, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


Tropical forest and peatland ecosystems are extraordinarily rich and complex, as are the human communities that live around and interact with them. This is the beauty of these ecosystems, but also presents challenges for their sustainable management. I am driven to understand the nature of the relationship between the ecological and anthropological components of these ecosystems, and how these relationships might be improved to provide benefits for both conservation and people. An ecologist by training, I am increasingly striving to develop multi-disciplinary approaches and understanding relating to the above challenges. 

There are few places where developing such an understanding is more necessary than in Borneo, whose forests and peatland ecosystems are of immense value for reducing carbon emissions, biodiversity conservation and the numerous benefits they provide to local people, but are severely threatened by agricultural conversion, drainage, fire and wildlife harvesting. My research here is conducted in partnership with numerous Indonesian and international collaborators, and is described in more detail on the Research tab.


2001: BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Wales Swansea

2009: PhD, University of Cambridge. Dissertation "Orang-utan Feeding Behaviour in Sabangau, Central Kalimantan"


2020-present: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Exeter

2012-present: Research Director, Borneo Nature Foundation International

2011-present: Honorary Visiting Fellow, University of Leicester

2016-17 and 2018-19: Higher Education Coordinator, Wild Planet Trust, Newquay Zoo

2009-2012: Research Development Leader, Borneo Nature Foundation International


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Research interests

My goal is to better understand the complex ecological and sociological issues relating to tropical forest ecosystems and their conservation, and to use this knowledge to help develop healthier relationships with a healthier environment. The current geographic area of focus for these investigations is Borneo’s tropical forests and peatlands. In particular, I am interested in understanding spatio-temporal variations within terrestrial ecosystems, including the influence of both natural (e.g., habitat type, seasons) and anthropological (e.g., fire disturbance, replanting efforts) factors in driving these variations; understanding the complex relationships between, and reciprocal impacts of, local people and tropical terrestrial ecosystems on each other; and applying this knowledge to inform sustainable management approaches. This involves deploying and combining a variety of ecological and sociological research methods, including monitoring of long-term tree plots, assessment of forest soundscapes, interview surveys and literature reviews.

Research projects

Major areas of personal research and research supervision to date include:

  • Assessing the impacts of tropical peatland revegetation efforts and developing guidelines to enhance their effectiveness (J. Appl. Ecol., Restor. Ecol.).
  • Conducting multi-disciplinary reviews of major challenges and opportunities relating to tropical forest and peatland conservation on Borneo (People and Nature).
  • Development of ecological monitoring systems to assess impacts of human activities in tropical forests, covering a variety of physical and biological ecosystem characteristics (Wetlands, Mires and Peat, Ecol. Entomol., Asian Myrmecol.).
  • Tropical peat-swamp forest ecology and conservation, including impacts and causes of forest fire, flowering and fruiting phenology, and REDD+ benefits (GEC, Biotrop., Biologist, Trop. Cons. Sci.).
  • Spatio-temporal variations in orangutan diet and energy intake, their causes, and implications for evolution, population density and conservation management (PhD thesis, J. Human Evol., PLoS One, Int. J. Primatol, Am. J. Primatol.).
  • Orangutan and other South-east Asian primate behavioural ecology and conservation, including seed dispersal, locomotion and substrate use, and parasite loads (Sci. Reports, J. R. Soc. Interface, Curr. Biol., Am. J. Primatol., J. Trop. Ecol., Parasitol.).
  • Wildlife trade, focusing on hunting of large flying foxes in Borneo (Biol. Cons., Oryx).
  • Ecological interactions and impacts of hippotamus in Malawi (Afr. J. Ecol.).

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Journal articles

Harrison ME, Deere NJ, Imron MA, Nasir D, Adul, Asti HA, Aragay Soler J, Boyd NC, Cheyne SM, Collins SA, et al (2024). Impacts of fire and prospects for recovery in a tropical peat forest ecosystem. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 121(17). Abstract.  Author URL.
Harrison ME, Brugues Sintes P, Kusin K, Katoppo DR, Marchant NC, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Nasir D, Ripoll Capilla B, Salahudin, Suppan L, et al (2023). Accounting for seedling performance from nursery to outplanting when reforesting degraded tropical peatlands. Restoration Ecology, 31(8). Abstract.
Ramdzan KNM, Moss PT, Jacobsen G, Gallego-Sala A, Charman D, Harrison ME, Page S, Mishra S, Wardle DA, Jaya A, et al (2023). Insights for restoration: Reconstructing the drivers of long-term local fire events and vegetation turnover of a tropical peatland in Central Kalimantan. Palaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology, 628
Hendriks JA, Mariaty M, Maimunah S, Anirudh NB, Holly BA, Erkens RHJ, Harrison ME (2023). Odonata (Insecta) Communities in a Lowland Mixed Mosaic Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Ecologies, 4(1), 55-73. Abstract.
Ramdzan KNM, Moss PT, Heijnis H, Harrison ME, Yulianti N (2022). Application of Palaeoecological and Geochemical Proxies in the Context of Tropical Peatland Degradation and Restoration: a Review for Southeast Asia. Wetlands, 42(7).
Widyastuti K, Reuillon R, Chapron P, Abdussalam W, Nasir D, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard H, Imron MA, Berger U (2022). Assessing the impact of forest structure disturbances on the arboreal movement and energetics of orangutans—An agent-based modeling approach. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10
Imron MA, Widyastuti K, Bihad DA, Satria RA, Prayoga W, Pradopo ST, Suryatmojo H, Sopha BM, Harrison ME, Berger U, et al (2022). Beyond Climatic Variation: Human Disturbances Alter the Effectiveness of a Protected Area to Reduce Fires in a Tropical Peatland. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 05
Smith SW, Rahman NEB, Harrison ME, Shiodera S, Giesen W, Lampela M, Wardle DA, Chong KY, Randi A, Wijedasa LS, et al (2022). Tree species that ‘live slow, die older’ enhance tropical peat swamp restoration: Evidence from a systematic review. Journal of Applied Ecology, 59(8), 1950-1966.
Evans CD, Callaghan N, Jaya A, Grinham A, Sjogersten S, Page SE, Harrison ME, Kusin K, Kho LK, Ledger M, et al (2021). A Novel Low-Cost, High-Resolution Camera System for Measuring Peat Subsidence and Water Table Dynamics. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 9 Abstract.
Thurstan R, Hockings K, Hedlund J, Bersacola E, Collins C, Early R, Harrison M, Kaiser-Bunbury C, Nuno A, Van Veen F, et al (2021). Envisioning a resilient future for biodiversity conservation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. People and Nature
Chua L, Harrison ME, Fair H, Milne S, Palmer A, Rubis J, Thung P, Wich S, Büscher B, Cheyne SM, et al (2020). Conservation and the social sciences: Beyond critique and co‐optation. A case study from orangutan conservation. People and Nature, 2(1), 42-60. Abstract.
Thornton SA, Setiana E, Yoyo K, Dudin, Yulintine, Harrison ME, Page SE, Upton C (2020). Towards biocultural approaches to peatland conservation: the case for fish and livelihoods in Indonesia. Environmental Science and Policy, 114, 341-351. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Wijedasa LS, Cole LES, Cheyne SM, Choiruzzad SAB, Chua L, Dargie GC, Ewango CEN, Honorio Coronado EN, Ifo SA, et al (2020). Tropical peatlands and their conservation are important in the context of COVID-19 and potential future (zoonotic) disease pandemics. PeerJ, 8, e10283-e10283. Abstract.
Burke C, Wich S, Kusin K, McAree O, Harrison ME, Ripoll B, Ermiasi Y, Mulero-Pázmány M, Longmore S (2019). Thermal-drones as a safe and reliable method for detecting subterranean peat fires. Drones, 3(1), 1-16. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Ottay JB, D’Arcy LJ, Cheyne SM, Anggodo, Belcher C, Cole L, Dohong A, Ermiasi Y, Feldpausch T, et al (2019). Tropical forest and peatland conservation in Indonesia: Challenges and directions. People and Nature, 2(1), 4-28. Abstract.
Tarszisz E, Tomlinson S, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Munn AJ (2018). An ecophysiologically informed model of seed dispersal by orangutans: linking animal movement with gut passage across time and space. CONSERVATION PHYSIOLOGY, 6  Author URL.
Husson SJ, Limin SH, Adul, Boyd NS, Brousseau JJ, Collier S, Cheyne SM, D'Arcy LJ, Dow RA, Dowds NW, et al (2018). Biodiversity of the Sebangau tropical peat swamp forest, Indonesian Borneo. MIRES AND PEAT, 22  Author URL.
Tarszisz E, Tomlinson S, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Munn AJ (2018). Corrigendum: Gardeners of the forest: Effects of seed handling and ingestion by orangutans on germination success of peat forest plants [Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 123, 1, (2018), 125-134]doi 10.1093/biolinnean/blx133. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 124(2), 278-278. Abstract.
Schreven SJJ, Perlett ED, Jarrett BJM, Marchant NC, Harsanto FA, Purwanto A, Sýkora KV, Harrison ME (2018). Forest gaps, edge, and interior support different ant communities in a tropical peat-swamp forest in Borneo. Asian Myrmecology, 10 Abstract.
Tarszisz E, Tomlinson S, Harrison ME, Morrough-Bernard HC, Munn AJ (2018). Gardeners of the forest: effects of seed handling and ingestion by orangutans on germination success of peat forest plants. BIOLOGICAL JOURNAL OF THE LINNEAN SOCIETY, 123(1), 125-134.  Author URL.
Freund CA, Harsanto FA, Purwanto A, Takahashi H, Harrison ME (2018). Microtopographic specialization and flexibility in tropical peat swamp forest tree species. Biotropica, 50(2), 208-214. Abstract.
Thornton SA, Dudin, Page SE, Upton C, Harrison ME (2018). Peatland fish of Sebangau, Borneo: Diversity, monitoring and conservation. Mires and Peat, 22 Abstract.
Harrison ME, Rieley JO (2018). Tropical peatland biodiversity and conservation in southeast Asia: Foreword. Mires and Peat, 22, 1-7.
Wijedasa LS, Jauhiainen J, Könönen M, Lampela M, Vasander H, Leblanc M-C, Evers S, Smith TEL, Yule CM, Varkkey H, et al (2017). Denial of long-term issues with agriculture on tropical peatlands will have devastating consequences. Glob Chang Biol, 23(3), 977-982.  Author URL.
Harrison ME, Zweifel N, Husson SJ, Cheyne SM, D'Arcy LJ, Harsanto FA, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Purwanto A, Rahmatd, Santiano, et al (2016). Disparity in Onset Timing and Frequency of Flowering and Fruiting Events in Two Bornean Peat-Swamp Forests. BIOTROPICA, 48(2), 188-197.  Author URL.
Cattau ME, Harrison ME, Shinyo I, Tungau S, Uriarte M, DeFries R (2016). Sources of anthropogenic fire ignitions on the peat-swamp landscape in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Global Environmental Change, 39, 205-219. Abstract.
Marchant NC, Purwanto A, Harsanto FA, Boyd NS, Harrison ME, Houlihan PR (2015). 'Random-flight' dispersal in tropical fruit-feeding butterflies? High mobility, long lifespans and no home ranges. Ecological Entomology, 40(6), 696-706. Abstract.
Vogel ER, Harrison ME, Zulfa A, Bransford TD, Alavi SE, Husson S, Morrogh-Bernard H, Santiano, Firtsman T, Utami-Atmoko SS, et al (2015). Nutritional differences between two Orangutan habitats: Implications for population density. PLoS ONE, 10(10). Abstract.
Struebig MJ, Wilting A, Gaveau DLA, Meijaard E, Smith RJ, the Borneo Mammal Distribution Consortium, Fischer M, Metcalfe K, Kramer-Schadt S (2015). Targeted Conservation to Safeguard a Biodiversity Hotspot from Climate and Land-Cover Change. Current Biology, 25(3), 372-378.
Struebig MJ, Wilting A, Gaveau DLA, Meijaard E, Smith RJ, Borneo Mammal Distribution Consortium, Fischer M, Metcalfe K, Kramer-Schadt S (2015). Targeted conservation to safeguard a biodiversity hotspot from climate and land-cover change. Curr Biol, 25(3), 372-378. Abstract.  Author URL.
Ancrenaz M, Sollmann R, Meijaard E, Hearn AJ, Ross J, Samejima H, Loken B, Cheyne SM, Stark DJ, Gardner PC, et al (2014). Coming down from the trees: is terrestrial activity in Bornean orangutans natural or disturbance driven?. Scientific Reports, 4 Abstract.
Ehlers Smith DA, Husson SJ, Ehlers Smith YC, Harrison ME (2013). Feeding ecology of red langurs in sabangau tropical peat-swamp forest, Indonesian Borneo: Extreme granivory in a non-masting forest. American Journal of Primatology, 75(8), 848-859. Abstract.
Houlihan PR, Harrison ME, Cheyne SM (2013). Impacts of forest gaps on butterfly diversity in a Bornean peat-swamp forest. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, 16(1), 67-73. Abstract.
Harrison ME (2013). Using conceptual models to understand ecosystem function and impacts of human activities in tropical peat-swamp forests. Wetlands, 33(2), 257-267. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Boonman A, Cheyne SM, Husson SJ, Marchant NC, Struebig MJ (2012). Biodiversity monitoring protocols for REDD+: can a one-size-fits-all approach really work?. Tropical Conservation Science, 5(1), 1-11. Abstract.
Lucas PW, Gaskins JT, Lowrey TK, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Cheyne SM, Begley MR (2012). Evolutionary optimization of material properties of a tropical seed. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 9(66), 34-42. Abstract.
Manduell KL, Harrison ME, Thorpe SKS (2012). Forest Structure and Support Availability Influence Orangutan Locomotion in Sumatra and Borneo. American Journal of Primatology, 74(12), 1128-1142. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Paoli GD (2012). Managing the risk of biodiversity leakage from prioritising REDD+ in the most carbon-rich forests: the case study of peat-swamp forests in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Tropical Conservation Science, 5(4), 426-433. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Cheyne SM, Darma F, Ribowo DA, Limin SH, Struebig MJ (2011). Hunting of flying foxes and perception of disease risk in Indonesian Borneo. Biological Conservation, 144(10), 2441-2449. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Marshall AJ (2011). Strategies for the Use of Fallback Foods in Apes. International Journal of Primatology, 32(3), 531-565. Abstract.
Nielsen NH, Jacobsen MW, Graham LLLB, Morrogh-Bernard HC, D'Arcy LJ, Harrison ME (2011). Successful germination of seeds following passage through orang-utan guts. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 27(4), 433-435. Abstract.
Labes EM, Hegglin D, Grimm F, Nurcahyo W, Harrison ME, Bastian ML, Deplazes P (2010). Intestinal parasites of endangered orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) in Central and East Kalimantan, Borneo, Indonesia. Parasitology, 137(1), 123-135. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Chivers DJ (2010). Orangutan energetics and the influence of fruit Availability in the nonmasting peat-swamp forest of sabangau, indonesian borneo. International Journal of Primatology, 31(4), 585-607. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Vogel ER, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Van Noordwijk MA (2009). Methods for calculating activity budgets compared: a case study using orangutans. American Journal of Primatology, 71(4), 353-358. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Page SE, Limin SH (2009). The global impact of Indonesian forest fires. Biologist, 56(3), 156-163.
Harrison ME, Kalindekafe MP, Banda B (2008). The ecology of the hippopotamus in Liwonde National Park, Malawi: Implications for management. African Journal of Ecology, 46(4), 507-514. Abstract.
Struebig MJ, Harrison ME, Cheyne SM, Limin SH (2007). Intensive hunting of large flying foxes Pteropus vampyrus natunae in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. ORYX, 41(3), 390-393. Abstract.
Harrison ME, Chivers DJ (2007). The orang-utan mating system and the unflanged male: a product of increased food stress during the late Miocene and Pliocene?. Journal of Human Evolution, 52(3), 275-293. Abstract.


Bersacola E, Hockings KJ, Harrison ME, Imron MA, Bessa J, Ramon M, Regalla de Barros A, Jaló M, Sanhá A, Ruiz-Miranda CR, et al (2023). Primate Conservation in Shared Landscapes. In  (Ed) Primates in Anthropogenic Landscapes, Springer Nature, 161-181.


Maimunah S, Capilla BR, Armadiyanto, Harrison ME (2019). Tree diversity and forest composition of a Bornean heath forest, Indonesia. Abstract.
Cheyne SM, Capilla BR, Van Veen FJF, Boyd N, Adul, Husson SJ, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Maimunah S (2017). Conserving Non-Protected Primate Habitat: the Rungan River Conservation Programme of the Borneo Nature Foundation, Indonesia.  Author URL.
Cheyne SM, Capilla BR, Van Veen FJF, Boyd N, Adul, Husson SJ, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Maimunah S (2017). Conserving Non-Protected Primate Habitat: the Rungan River Conservation Programme of the Borneo Nature Foundation, Indonesia.  Author URL.
Hoepfner AR, Morrogh-Bernard H, Husson S, Harrison M, Goller F (2016). Social and environmental influences on long call behavior of male orangutans.  Author URL.
Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard HC, Husson SJ, Firtsman T, Santiano, Farida WR, van Noordwijk MA, Vogel ER (2015). Treading the Energetic Tightrope: Long-Term Energetics of Bornean Orangutans in Non-Masting Swamp Forests.  Author URL.
Vogel ER, Harrison ME, Morrogh-Bernard H, Van Noordwijk MA (2012). Variation in the nutritional quality of the diets of two populations of Bornean orangutans (<i>Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii</i>): implications for population density.  Author URL.
Harrison ME (2008). Adaptive strategies for the use of fallback foods in apes.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact

Research Director, Borneo Nature Foundation International

Associate Editor, Mires and Peat

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