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Faculty Information

Elena Cunningham, M.A., Ph.D.
Adjunct Associate Professor
Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology
Floor 16N Va-Ny Harbor Healthcare System, 423 East 23 Street, 16 North
Fax: 212-995-4087



2003  Ph.D., City University of New York
1994  M.A. Hunter College



Research Interests / Professional Overview:

Dr. Elena Cunningham is interested in understanding how the interplay between ecological and social factors contributed to the evolution of primate cognition.  She is studying the ranging and foraging behavior of the black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar and at the Lemur Conservation Foundation in Florida.  The goal of this project is to determine whether the black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) relies on memory to locate food sources and whether Varecia remember the relative productivity of these sources. The ability to integrate information on a fruit tree's location and productivity may have made it possible for monkeys and apes to live in larger, more cohesive groups by reducing competition between group members for fruit.  Previously, Dr. Cunningham studied the use of memory in the foraging strategy of the white faced saki monkey (Pithecia pithecia).

Elena Cunningham is collaborating with Jo Setchell on a study of the relative safety of various darting practices (darting is a common way of immobilizing primates in the wild). The research was presented at the XXIV Congress of the International Primatological Society in Mexico in 2012.

Dr. Cunningham is also interested in increasing her knowledge of how people learn. She is interested in mentoring a student in a study of sleep, study habits and grades of NYUCD students. 

Past Student Research: Cunningham, E.P. and Schofield, L. (2010) Ecological and reproductive influences on Varecia variegata ranging and feeding behavior in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. American Journal of Physical Anthropology (Supplement 50) 89.



Current Funding:

National Geographic Society


Pub Med Articles:

Cunningham EP, Cunningham E


Representative Publications:

Baker E.W., Slott P.A., Terracio L., and Cunningham E.P. (In Press) An innovative method for teaching anatomy. Journal of Dental Education.

Cunningham, E.P., Harrison-Levine A and Robert Norman. (2013) Finding the Balance: Optimizing predatoravoidance and food encounters through individual positioning in Pithecia pithecia during travel. In Evolutionary Biology and Conservation of Titis, Sakis and Uacaris, Studies in Biological and Evolutionary Anthropology Editors: Adrian Barnett, Liza M. Veiga, Steve F. Ferrari. Marilyn Norconk. Cambridge University Press, pp 272-276.

Cunningham, E.P. and Janson, C.H. (2007) A socioecological perspective on primate cognition, past and present. Animal Cognition 10:273-281.

Cunningham, E.P. and Janson, C.H. (2007) Integrating information about location and value of resources by white-faced saki monkeys (Pithecia pithecia) Animal Cognition 10:293-304.

Cunningham, E.P. and Janson, C.H. (2006) Pithecia pithecia's behavioral response to                     decreasing fruit abundance. American Journal of Primatology 68: 491-497.