Science on Deck event offered opportunity to explore the Blue Heron research vessel

Built as for fishing in 1985, the Blue Heron was purchased by UMD in 1997 and converted to a research vessel.

“The importance of the vessel is that you can physically get your hands wet, get out there on Lake Superior, see what’s actually going on,” said Large Lakes Observatory intern Amelea Hauer. “The most important thing is you can put the equipment on this vessel, get it out there and put the buoys in the water to collect the raw data. Most colleges or facilities don’t have this huge resource, but we do. So we utilize all that we can.”

Captain Rual Lee has been on board for around twenty years. 

“It’s actually great fun,” said Lee. “Life is very simple on board when you’re doing the long trips, you get into a routine and it’s a real flow of standing, watching and driving the boat and stopping at the stations and working the science on board.”

The Blue Heron was docked outside of the Great Lakes Aquarium on Friday for a “Science on Deck” event.

“I think there’s a huge difference between the public and science,” said Hauer. “For huge breakthroughs to be done or just even small things, there needs to be that interaction, that connectedness, because a lot of the funding or outreach, anything like that really comes from the public and people wanting to pursue more things.” 

Anyone was able to explore the vessel and attend a lecture by UMD Professor Sam Kelly. He spoke about a NASA project to look at the Great Lakes from space, a mission that started in the early 2000s. Other researchers were present as well to talk about ongoing projects.

Elias Wyant, 12, attended with his grandparents. Wyant enjoyed learning all about the ship as well as environmental issues with Lake Superior.

“It helped to understand to me that there is only a little bit of fresh water left and measuring the salt in this water is almost 2%,” said Wyant. “So I learned that we actually kind of need to save this water and preserve it, because if we’re not and we don’t have this water, it’s going to affect my generation later, a lot.”