(Submitted to Canadian Press)

(Submitted to Canadian Press)

‘He loved Nunavut:’ Polar bear biologist who died in helicopter crash remembered

‘He was the link that brought researchers in from around the world’

A dedicated scientist who loved the North, Markus Dyck spoke his mind and strove to include Inuit in northern research.

That’s how friends and colleagues are remembering Dyck, a polar bear biologist with the Nunavut government, who died in a helicopter crash near Resolute Bay on Sunday. Two crew members also died.

Harvey Lemelin, a professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., and a close friend of Dyck, said he’s still processing the news of his death.

“I was in complete denial. I was hoping they were wrong,” he said in an interview.

Dyck, who was in his early 50s, was surveying polar bear populations in Lancaster Sound for the Nunavut government on the day of the crash.

He grew up in Germany and lived in Igloolik, a Nunavut community on a small island in the northwest Baffin region. He moved there in 2012 when he got his dream job as a polar bear biologist.

“He loved Nunavut. And he loved those communities. He was so dedicated to traditional knowledge and to respectful approaches to working with the communities,” Lemelin said.

As the Nunavut government’s polar bear biologist, Dyck spent years doing field work and collecting samples across the territory.

“He was so dedicated to those bears… I’m not sure I could ever capture how much he loved them,” Lemelin said.

Peter Van Coeverden de Groot, a professor who worked with Dyck, also highlighted Dyck’s dedication to including Inuit traditional knowledge and sustainable hunting in his northern research.

“He had a desire to me more inclusive, being non-invasive and getting the community involved,” said de Groot of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“I think Markus lost the definition between work and life. It was just life. His work was his life.”

Dyck had a sharp sense humour and, when surrounded by friends, never held back about how he really felt, de Groot said.

He had an “incredible knack” for being able to fit the f-word into any situation “as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb. But he was perfectly well-mannered when he needed to be.”

Lemelin and de Groot agreed it was often hard to tell when Dyck was smiling because of his bushy beard.

“He looks like a curmudgeon, but he’s got a twinkle in his eye and a soft spot,” de Groot said. “He was the most lovable curmudgeon I know.”

“When he smiled when he saw you, you knew it was a genuine smile. There was nothing disingenuous about Markus,” Lemelin said.

University of Alberta professor Andrew Derocher, who met Dyck in the early 1990s while they were both working in Churchill, Man., also remembers Dyck’s outspoken nature.

“He made his opinions known and wasn’t shy about them. But he was willing to listen. He had a wry sense of humour and a slight squint in his eye,” Derocher said.

Dyck’s death leaves a hole in the polar bear research community. Derocher said Dyck was the go-to person for all polar bear researchers in Canada and internationally.

“He was the link that brought researchers in from around the world,” Derocher said. “It’s a huge setback for polar bear management in Canada.”

“Markus is irreplaceable at this time. Not because he was just the world’s most wonderful human being, but he had a set of connections and history that can’t be replaced,” de Groot said.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the crash. The cause is still unknown.

Emma Tranter, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man who allegedly spat at and yelled racial slurs at an Asian family was arrested for hate-motivated assault Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man arrested for allegedly spitting, yelling anti-Asian racial slurs at a mother and kids

The man was arrested for hate-motivated assault near Quadra Elementary School Tuesday

James Taylor, a Saanich resident and member of the Curve Lake First Nation, walked all over Greater Victoria on May 5 in honour of Red Dress Day and the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Devon Bidal/News staff)
Indigenous man walks Greater Victoria to honour missing and murdered women and girls

James Taylor, of the Curve Lake First Nation, marks Red Dress Day with healing walk, songs

This sign, visible from Highway 17 and suggesting dissatisfaction with the public health measures responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, disappeared from this location after having stood on a private North Saanich property for several days. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sign in North Saanich warning of police state gone

The sign stood for several days on a private property and was visible from Highway 17

Victoria police said Wednesday that they continue to look for Belinda Ann Cameron, who was last seen on May 5, 2005. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police still looking for Belinda Cameron who was last seen 16 years ago

Cameron was reported missing on June 4, 2005, and her case is deemed suspicious

Colwood-based writer Esi Edugyan will speak about the deep research she did before writing <em>Washington Black</em>, her third novel. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood author Esi Edugyan giving talk May 6 about her research and writing process

Event is part of Royal Road’s Changemaker series celebrating its 25th anniversary

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
Clash between loggers, activists halts forestry operations over Fairy Creek

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

The courthouse in Nanaimo, B.C. (News Bulletin file)
Island man sentenced in Nanaimo after causing a dog unnecessary pain and suffering

Kiefer Tyson Giroux, 26, of Nanoose Bay, given six-month sentence

Following a one-year pause due to the pandemic, the Snowbirds were back in the skies over the Comox Valley Wednesday (May 5) morning. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in Comox Valley in more than 2 years

The team will conduct their training from May 4 to 26 in the area

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

Most Read