(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

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Younger Princeton residents are now being urged to register for a vaccination notification. (Black Press Media photo)
Princeton lags behind in vaccination rates

Approximately 24 per cent of residents here have received their first dose

Memorials have been set up to honour those who died during the Second World War. (Pixabay.com)
COLUMN: It’s time to stop making comparisons to Hitler

The deadliest, most destructive war in human history should not become a metaphor

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

The southern mountain caribou, an iconic species for the Splatsin First Nation, is threatened with extinction, much to the dismay of the First Nation. (Province of B.C. photo)
Okanagan First Nation band concerned over dwindling caribou herd

Southern mountain caribou at risk of extinction, much to dismay of Splatsin First Nation near Enderby

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
UPDATE: Winfield road open following police, coroner investigation

Pelmewash Parkway closure near Highway 97 connection

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

RCMP (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
High-risk takedown on Highway 1 following Shuswap shooting

Upon further investigation, the vehicle and its occupants were not associated with the shooting

Most Read