Individual behaviors, perceptual, sensory, and cognitive abilities are essential to understanding how an animal survives in the wild. In addition to how various groups live today in this changing world, we can learn from the varying conditions certain behaviors evolved and how extinct species once lived. I have studied wild and captive primates in Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the UK, and the US.

My current research program takes a whole animal approach to addressing two overarching questions: 1. How do primates engage with their environment, conspecifics, and other organisms? 2. How did adaptive behaviors and morphologies evolve to facilitate successful behavioral ecology? More specifically I focus on the following topics:


Slow loris Behavioral Socioecology and Evolution

Behavioral plasticity. I have observed captive, reintroduced, and wild primates in highly disturbed areas, recording the varying levels of plasticity certain species display in different environments. I am particularly interested in species where little long-term data are available, as new data often changes our current understanding of behavioral systems creating a more comprehensive view.

Reconstructing the ancestral condition. I’m interested in using updated field data and ancestral reconstruction methods to determine how certain behavioral traits (e.g., social organization, sleep site selection, infant care) evolved, offering new perspectives and reinforcing established theories.

Publications within this topic:

  • Poindexter SA, Reinhardt KD, Nijman V, and Nekaris KAI. 2018. Slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) display evidence of handedness in the wild and in captivity.  Laterality:  Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition. 6, pp. 705-721.

  • Svensson MS et al., including Poindexter SA. 2018. Sleep patterns, daytime predation and the evolution of diurnal sleep site selection in lorisiforms. Invited article for the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 166 (3), pp. 563-577.

  • Nekaris KAI, Poindexter S, Reinhardt KD, Sigaud M, Cabana F, Wirdateti W, and Nijman V. 2017. Co-existence between primates and humans in a dynamic agroforestry landscape in West Java. International Journal of Primatology. 38(2), pp.303-320. 

  • Poindexter S and Nekaris KAI. In Press. The Evolution of Social Organisation in Lorisiformes. In: Evolution, Ecology and Conservation Lorises and Pottos. Editors: Nekaris KAI and Burrows A. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK



Ranging behavior and spatial cognition. A primary goal of my research is to develop reliable baseline information that can help define success in translocations. Dedicated post-release monitoring allows us to determine whether a population that disappears following release has fallen to stochastic demographic processes, increased post-release mortality, or post-release dispersal. Through this work, I study navigation, large-scale movement, and spatial dynamics in wild populations.

Locomotor behavior and limb morphology. To understand how certain species can physically reach resources, it is necessary to assess morphometric variations within and across populations. In a slow-climbing exudativorous primate, some limb lengths (e.g., lower and upper arm) scale isometrically, while others (e.g., upper and lower leg) scale allometrically. I concluded that the allometrically scaled limbs play a more pronounced role in accessing exudates on vertical trunks. I plan to expand this research examining post-cranial morphology in other arboreal African and Asian exudate feeders, as well as, other extinct and extant slow climbers.

Publications within this topic:

  • Poindexter S and Nekaris KAI. 2017. Vertical clingers and gougers: rapid acquisition of adult limb proportions facilitates feeding behaviours in young Javan slow lorises (Nycticebus javanicus). Mammalian Biology-Zeitschrift für Säugetierkunde. 87, pp. 40-49.

  • Poindexter S, Khoa DD, and Nekaris KAI. 2016. The ranging patterns of translocated pygmy slow lorises (Nycticebus pygmaeus) in Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam. Vietnamese Journal of Primatology. 2(5), pp.  25-33.

  • Poindexter S. 2017. Prosimian Navigation. In: Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Editors: Vonk J and Shackelford T K. Springer Nature. New York: New York.



Nasal morphology and airflow dynamics. In the Sensory Morphology and Genomic Anthropology Lab with Dr. Eva Garrett, I am working to uncover the evolutionary factors that may have influenced variation in nasal cavity morphology across primate species. As an on-going project, I am interested in simulating airflow using 3D models and computational fluid dynamics.

Olfactory sensory drive. Chemical cues can signal the presence of resources, conspecifics, and predators as such, chemotaxis, the movement toward or away from a source of chemical cues, is an important component of behavioral ecology in most animals. I’m interested in the perceptional range of varying primate species, as well as, chemical cue characteristics (e.g. latency, chemical composition, and particle dimensions) in different altitudes, climates, and geographic locations and species level particle deposition efficiency in nonhuman primates. I also want understand the relationship between olfaction and large scale movement.