CHICAGO (CBS) — The research vessel, the Blue Heron, along with a scientific team from the University of Rochester, docked Thursday at Navy Pier to take a short break from an eight-day research expedition funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The 86-foot research vessel is part of the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System and is the only UNOLS vessel on the Great Lakes. It is owned by the University of Minnesota and operated by the Large Lakes Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota.

Scientists at the Large Lakes Observatory have been studying the Great Lakes for decades and on Thursday, the director, Robert Sterner will be sharing with the public what scientists have found so far.

“The Great Lakes are part of the soul of the region. In fact, they basically define the region,” said Large Lakes Observatory Director Robert Sterner.

Scientists at the Large Lakes Observatory have been studying the biology, chemistry, physics and geology of the Great Lakes and found the lakes are “undergoing dramatic changes — less ice, warmer summers, and more invasive species.”

“This is cutting edge science,” said John Kessler, professor at the University of Rochester.

Kessler and his team took part in this trip to research the effects of greenhouse gases on the Great Lakes.

“It’s surprising that there is a lot of mechanisms naturally that can both create and destroy greenhouse gases in fresh water environments, of which the Great Lakes are the largest liquid fresh water environment on the Earth.”

He said scientific issues should be viewed scientifically, not politically.

The Blue Heron will be open to the public while it is docked at Navy Pier on Thursday from 1:30 to 5 p.m. offering “free public tours of the ship, demonstrate its unique scientific capabilities and offer other hands on educational opportunities.”

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