Ep.112 A Dragonfly Leads To A Conversation About Ecosystems

By Published On: March 11, 2021Categories: Blog, Podcasts, The CTO Studio

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About The Speaker:

Matt Ferguson is the CTO at Galley Solutions.

Episode Resources:

Check out https://7ctos.com/

Episode Transcription:

Nickolai Walker: [00:00:10] Hello, hello and welcome to the studio, I, of course, am your host, Nikolai Walker, where else would I be? This is my favorite chair. This is my favorite thing to do. Now, today, we are joined again by Matt Ferguson and he is going to talk to us about what I found to be a fascinating interview about how a dragonfly led to a conversation about ecosystems. So what I want to ask, Matt, is this. If you got a visit from the show’s producer, would you require me, I mean him to take a fish home?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:00:44] That’s part of the rules of coming to my house now is the fish breed and because the water quality is good, the fish are breeding, so, you know, it’s good. And the other thing we learned a lot about is some of the insect life we have around here. I’ve never watched the entire cycle of a dragonfly before, but dragonflies are amazing. The number of cycles they go through and the amount of times that they’re able to morph into something new and bigger in our pond and watch them grow from tiny little nymphs to nymphs that look like they’re the exact thing that Ridley based the aliens show off of. You know, the monster in Alien looks like a dragonfly nymph. And it’s the scariest thing you’ve ever saw, right before it’s about ready to hatch and become a dragonfly. But now we have dozens of the big red giant, double winged dragonflies in the pond and they come back and lay their eggs and the females only lay their eggs if the water quality is perfect. So we have good water based on the insects saying we do and everything else. But the females, you know, just watching all this and just in the evenings with the kids sitting and observing these things is a lot of fun. It’s been very educational. Our kids go to an academy, so they’re partially home schooled some of the week. And, you know, science projects are right outside, you know, water temperature, chlorine, all the measurements, plant growth. I mean, there’s always a science project going on in front of the kids based on what we have in the backyard, which is also been fun.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:02:28] So that was going to be my next question around testing the water. I don’t suppose you need to. You can just look at life?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:02:35] You can kind of look at it and say, oh, is there any algae bloom going on or is it perfectly clean? You kind of know, and then if you’re seeing somethin, because seasonally, during the change of seasons, it can get out of balance a little bit. You know, the plants aren’t growing yet, but maybe the fish are starting to get more active. So, for a few weeks there will always be a little bit of an out of balance and then all of a sudden it’ll stabilize as things catch up. As the water temperature catches up with sunlight and there’s so many little sub ecosystems going on the shallows, the deep’s, the shady areas, the sunny areas that there’s really like, you know, microclimates in each part of the pond, depending on what you’re monitoring. So each one of them has a different little bit of a life and the plants that grow there.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:03:22] So when you see the algae bloom, you don’t freak out and throw chlorine into the water or anything?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:03:27] I used to. The first time I saw it, I was like, oh, my God, what have I done? But now I’m like, wait, I’m just going to wait. Maybe I need to throw some plants over there. Usually it’s just, oh, we need to throw some more plants in, you know, let’s move some things around. Let’s figure out, do we have too much sunlight there? But the deep zone never gets algae. It’s just maybe in a shallow area that is getting hot, too much sunshine. But once the water is covered with plants and has underwater plants, the algae can’t compete. I mean, the algae is always there, right? Just like yeast. It’s always ready to come back and make that next loaf of bread. But as long as something else is eating its food, you’re all fine.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:09] What is the purpose of a dragonfly? We have a lot of them here and I always wonder, so what’s your purpose, little guy?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:04:17] They’re like the apex insect predator, I think.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:27] I do wonder if it’s homeland security checking our immigrant status with bionic robots.


Matthew Ferguson: [00:04:36] They’re very majestic, you know?


Nickolai Walker: [00:04:38] They are beautiful and majestic.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:04:52] They are. I’ll have to Google. I suppose, in this age, I should just Google it, but yeah, I was hoping you could give me a delicious homemade pond answer.


Matthew Ferguson: [00:05:06] If we’re careful, every summer, the dragonflies get tame enough that you can pet them.


Nickolai Walker: [00:05:11] What? What?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:05:16] So they get used to us, you know, the kids running and jumping and cannonballing into the pond and I grew some very tall cattails, bulrushes next to the diving jumping platform and the dragonflies will sit up there on those and they’ll be right at shoulder level when you walk by. If you do that enough and you don’t touch them, they just stay there and they look at you. And eventually you can just stop and they’re right there and eventually you can start reaching over and you can stroke their back. It takes, I don’t know, a week or two of the kids just kind of desensitizing them. And then, I mean, for an insect to let you pet it, there’s a whole another break. It makes you wonder a little bit, right?


Etienne de Bruin: [00:06:13] Maybe that is how the Alien movie started, was when Ridley Scott did that. It’s like, wait, this is interesting. No, I appreciate digging into that because I just think I’m a student of eco-systems and just listening to how you handled algae, for instance, as a way to say, not I see something bad and I’ve got to get rid of it versus how is this an opportunity to fix the ecosystem, as an example? So, then, and  we’re not going to get into this, but you built a greenhouse, right?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:06:58] I did. That was the suburbs. That was my response to the Covid craziness, was I’m going to immerse myself in building another structure that’s simply to make sure.. I wanted to make sure the kids had a garden place to learn about growing food. But, you know, growing is great and I think that’s fun. But come on, the grocery stores are a way cheaper way to get food when you really add up the time and effort and dollars. But on the other hand, I think it’s a really important way to, you know, just everybody connecting with nature and understanding how hard it is to grow food and the watering, the whole experience. It’s just valuable and rewarding on its own, let alone that you get to have that one carrot that actually survives.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:07:49] Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. We’re doing it that way. You know, we have a pool that we’ve got to dump ungodly amounts of chlorine into. We have a vegetable garden that, you know, just the soil constantly needs to be nurtured. And the the yield is always a lot less than you would hope it to be. And the ecosystem just feels unhealthy because, you know, you have these trails of ants and you have nightcrawlers. It just doesn’t feel healthy. It doesn’t feel like there’s something healthy going on. Now, if you go beneath the leaves of the the squashes and the pumpkins and it feels like there’s something beautiful happening down there. But certainly on the surface, it’s not great.


Matthew Ferguson: [00:08:42] When you start a garden in East County, San Diego, you know, you’re basically creating a patch of green in the middle of a desert. And so every carnivore, everything that wants to eat green, is attracted for a half mile around your one hundred yards around you. And it’s hard to avoid that, which has been our lesson. But we’re getting better at it and try not to use too many chemicals to solve that problem.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:09:21] Yeah. And then, before I move on to your the little IoT project you did, is there something about the pond that is kind of gross? Like, you just did not anticipate  this, you know, 10 foot eel growing at the bottom of the pool or like something is attracted to it at 4:00 in the morning and you’re like, you know, there’s just something about it that you’re like, oh, I could have lived without this?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:09:53] Well, we do have trees. We love having a lot of nice trees in our yard. We’ve been blessed by that. And in the fall, you know, everybody says, oh, yeah, ponds are great as long you don’t have trees. And the reason they say that is in the fall when the leaves come down, guess where all the leaves go. They don’t just blow around your yard anymore. They touch the water and its a magnet, right? They don’t go anywhere. So in the fall, weekly, we have to kind of clean. And it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it’s a little work, you know. And you can’t just forget about it. It’s like, ah I’ll get to that in the spring – No. You got to get them out now because they don’t decompose.


Nickolai Walker: [00:10:36] Well, OK, Matt, but what about the tadpoles and what about the frogs?


Matthew Ferguson: [00:10:40] We did have a bit of a frog-a-gettum. It was my fault for getting some frogs and it took a long time to eradicate frogs.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:10:52] Ok, well, I do love talking to you about that project because I basically saw you do it. And so it was quite amazing to see that.


Matthew Ferguson: [00:11:03] You know, everything’s really tied together. The whole backyard is just like really interesting. And, you know, you step out of the pond, you can grab a bucket of pond water to go pour on the plants. You know, it’s really fun.


Etienne de Bruin: [00:11:20] Oh, and then, you have to refill the pond, right? With water.


Matthew Ferguson: [00:11:26] And especially with all the vegetation. It’s breathing all the time. So it’s even more so than a pool. You know, you get a lot of evaporation.


Nickolai Walker: [00:11:48] Thanks again for joining us here in the studio. And thank you to Matt Ferguson who was the CTO at Galley Solutions