On May 16, 2024, Dr. Andrew Bryant, one of the founding figures in the Vancouver Island marmot conservation effort, passed away. His science and advocacy for the marmot is one of the primary reasons that recovery efforts were launched to save the species from extinction, and his research continues to play a central role in recovery efforts to this day.

“A small-town boy who wound up far away, with the opportunity to do unexpected things”

Andrew grew up in Quebec, but his travel and work took him to wilderness throughout Canada and around the world. In Ontario’s Algonquin Provincial Park, Bryant’s Bluff is named after Andrew due to his work with Peregrine Falcons there. Andrew’s passion for studying nature was wide ranging, and includes papers on Burrowing Owls, bird breeding in old-growth forests, Red-shouldered Hawks, butterflies, and bats.

Combining Science and Advocacy

Andrew is likely best known for his work with the Vancouver Island marmot. While Andrew was not the first to raise the alarm about the marmot’s declining population, his persistence, combined with his exceptional science, played a major role in initiating comprehensive conservation efforts.

He began researching the Vancouver Island marmot for his Master’s thesis in 1987. Published in 1990, it suggested habitat modification reduced dispersal of Vancouver Island marmots. In 1994, he drafted the first Recovery Plan for the species calling for more intensive study. His 1996 paper further explored how marmot interactions with deforested landscapes could be negatively impacting the species.

It was his Doctoral thesis in 1998 that firmly linked the marmot’s ecology of living in relatively small, isolated colonies linked by dispersers and habitat changes, including forestry and hydro-electric dams, to their population decline. That was the same year the Marmot Recovery Foundation was established, where Andrew became the first Chief Scientist.

Between 1998 and 2009, he published 7 more scientific papers on the marmot, co-drafted two Recovery Strategies, and was often the public face of Vancouver Island marmot conservation efforts. Behind the scenes, he helped design and build the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre, and to implement a conservation breeding program, which lead to the first reintroduction efforts. He first suggested the Foundation begin an “Adopt-a-marmot” program to raise funds for recovery efforts.

Andrew left Vancouver Island and direct involvement with marmot science and conservation in 2010. He continued to speak about his experiences and science with the marmots to naturalists and other researchers until his death.

Saving a Species, one animal at a time

Andrew’s voice and science was instrumental in launching the Vancouver Island marmot conservation breeding and reintroduction program. His passion for the marmots, the quality of his science, and his creativity and imagination fueled work to save the species. Andrew was not always easy to work with, but then the marmots didn’t always need easy. That Vancouver Island marmots still live in the mountains of our Island is part of his legacy, and his spirit will forever be intertwined with the marmot’s survival.

Andrew is survived by his parents, brother, and two sisters.