(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

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin checking drivers on BC highways

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

Similkameen Elementary Secondary School (google maps)
More potential exposures dates added to Keremeos school by Interior Health

The entire school week from April 26 to 30 now had a potential exposure

City Hall
Penticton council votes to shift tax burden to businesses

“The businesses staying afloat are what’s going to keep our community afloat,” said coun. Watt

Penticton Western News editor Monique Tamminga got her Astra Zeneca vaccine on Monday, May 3, 2021 at a Penticton pharmacy. Vaccines and appointments are available at most Penticton pharmacies this week.
More than 22K Penticton residents vaccinated

More than 35,000 people jabbed in South Okanagan so far

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
New temporary outdoor shelter in Kelowna opens

The new area on Richter Street and Weddell Place replaces the Baillie Avenue site

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read