Corinne “Cordie” Diggins

Fish and Wildlife Conservation

Cordie’s passion for the great outdoors began at a relatively young age. She grew up in the wilds of the Delaware Piedmont where she frolicked in the garden and woods behind her house. She was initially inspired by Captain Planet, David the Gnome, and Shark Week. She earned a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation in 2006 from the University of Delaware, focusing her senior thesis on red spruce (Picea rubens) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) seedling root-to-shoot morphology. With a need to explore the great world beyond the borders of Delaware, she traveled to the vast Colorado Plateau to obtain an M.S. in Forestry from Northern Arizona University. For her thesis, Cordie modeled climate change effects on ponderosa pine restoration treatments and bird community changes due to a landscape scale ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) restoration project. Her field site was a stone’s throw away from the north rim of the Grand Canyon! But even the Grand Canyon could not keep her out west–she desperately missed humidity.  

Cordie returned back east to Asheville, NC, where she worked with the USFS Bent Creek Experimental Forest and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). While employed with NCWRC, she developed the North Carolina Bat Acoustic Monitoring Program (NCBAMP). NCBAMP is a region-wide citizen science project that monitors changes in summer bat activity due to White-nose Syndrome.  This disease is caused by an introduced fungus that sparked drastic declines in cave bat populations in eastern North America. Cordie’s work with the NCWRC also introduced her to the federally endangered Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus).
Cordie began a Ph.D. program in 2012, working with Dr. W. Mark Ford and the USGS Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Her research focused on two subspecies of northern flying squirrel that occur in the Appalachian Mountains: the recently delisted Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel (G. s. fuscus) and the Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel. These two subspecies inhabit high-elevation spruce-fir forests, which are Pleistocene relicts from the last ice age. The squirrels’ habitat has been reduced and degraded by industrial logging and spruce decline in the 20th century. Climate change is also a threat to this unique ecosystem, which occurs on high-elevation peaks and ridgelines in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Allegheny Mountains. Cordie’s work focused on habitat use and bioacoustics surveys of both subspecies, which will help guide habitat management (e.g., spruce restoration) within squirrel-occupied habitat.
Cordie graduated in 2016. Through the Interfaces of Global Change Program, she built interdisciplinary relationships with other fellows and professors, improving her ability to effectively communicate and collaborate with professionals in various fields.
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Rentch, J., W.M. Ford, T. Schuler, J. Palmer, and C.A. Diggins. 2016. Release of suppressed red spruce using canopy gap creation: Testing applicability for ecological restoration in the Central Appalachians. Natural Areas Journal 36(1): 500-508.
Diggins, C.A., C.A. Kelly, and W.M. Ford. 2015. Atypical den use of Carolina northern flying squirrels (Glaucomys sabrinus coloratus) in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Southeastern Naturalist 14(3): N44-N49.
Diggins, C.A., J. Martin, W.M. Ford, and D. Jachowski. 2015. Incidental captures of Eastern spotted skunk in a high-elevation spruce forest in Virginia. Northeastern Naturalist 22(2): N6-N10.
Graeter, G.J., C.A. Diggins, K. Weeks, and M.K. Clark. 2015. New distribution records for bats in northwestern North Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 14(1): 98-105.
Ford, W.M., A.M. Evans, R.H. Odom, J.L. Rodrigue, C.A. Kelly, N. Abiad, C.A. Diggins, and D. Newcomb. 2015. Predictive habitat models derived from nest box occupancy for the Endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel in the southern Appalachians. Endangered Species Reserach 27: 131-140.
Ford, W.M., C.A. Kelly, J.L. Rodrigue, R.H. Odom, D. Newcomb, L.M. Gilley, and C.A. Diggins. 2014. Late winter and early spring home range and habitat use of the endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel in western North Carolina. Endangered Species Research 23(1): 73-82.
Kelly, C.A., C.A. Diggins, and A.J. Lawrence. 2013. Crossing structures reconnect federally Endangered flying squirrel populations divided for 20 years by road barrier. Wildlife Society Bulletin 37(2): 375-379.
Diggins, C.A., P.Z. Fule, J.P. Kaye, and W.W. Covington. 2010. Future climate affects management strategies for maintaining forest restoration treatments. International Journal of Wildland Fire 19: 903-913.
Greenwood, M.S., C.L. O’Brien, J.D. Schatz, C.A. Diggins, M.E. Day, G.L. Jacobson, A.S. White, and R.G. Wagner. 2008. Is early life cycle success a determinant of the abundance of red spruce and balsam fir? Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38(8): 2295-2305. (abstract)