(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.

Just Posted

Plans to restore the ecology of Sidney Island include the eradication of fallow deer first introduced in the early 1900s. (Parks Canada/Submitted)
Parks Canada proposal calls for eradication of fallow deer on Sidney Island

Proposed eradication part of a larger plan to restore local ecology but obstacles remain ahead

A dramatic four-vehicle crash at the intersection of Government and Herald streets brings standstill in downtown Victoria on May 18. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
UPDATE: Downtown Victoria intersection reopens after 4 car crash injures passengers, slowed traffic

Traffic impacted after crash closes Government and Herald streets

The entrance to one of the tiny homes in Victoria’s Tiny Home Village. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)
Victoria Tiny Home Village resident evicted for lighting small fire

No damage or injuries, but zero-tolerance rule stands

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

A game camera near the Klahoose reservation on Cortes Island caught this glimpse of a truck leaving the woodlot at around 2:30 on Sunday morning. Photo supplied by Klahoose First Nation
Indigenous cutblock vandalised on Cortes Island, anti-logging element suspected

Ribbons pulled down, gravel poured into gas tank at Klahoose First Nation site

Announced Tuesday, May 18 by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, the province added gyms, dance and fitness studios to its list of places where face coverings are mandatory. (AP/Steven Senne)
Masks now required at all times inside B.C. gyms, including during workouts

Those who disobey could be subject to a $230 fine

Reinhard “Bud” Loewen of Abbotsford has now been charged with 21 counts of sexual assault related to his massage business. (Facebook photo)
Former Abbotsford masseur now faces 21 counts of sexual assault

Bud Loewen of Bud’s Massage Therapy initally faced three charges

Most Read