|One of my first projects upon arriving at SIUE was to survey Horseshoe Lake State Conservation Area in far southern Illinois for the presence of salamanders in the genus Ambystoma. This area protects a fragment of cypress swamp forest that has been undisturbed for almost 200 years, and that was previously well known as a site of high salamander diversity. In 1989, Jeff Parmelee surveyed salamanders at this site as part of his Master's work at Illinois State University; he recorded over 300 unique individuals in four different species in a relatively small fraction of the reserve.
Then in July 1993, the levee at Miller City (approximately 1 mile from the nature preserve) was breeched by record flood waters from the Mississippi River. Flood waters swept back to the north into HLSCA and covered the reserve to a depth of several feet for several weeks. When we surveyed the site from 1998 through 2002, we found very few of only three species of salamanders, suggesting that a large fraction of salamander populations had perished in 1993.