Ryan’s multi-faceted program of research broadly concerns the governance of social-ecological systems. In striving to advance knowledge of collaboration and adaptation within complex systems, he has focused on the exploring their theoretical underpinnings and ethical implications, modelling their processes, examining the roles of social capital, and investigating the influences of social learning. Water resources are the context in which his research mainly occurs and he is a Faculty Investigator in the Water Policy and Governance Group.
Findings from his research have been published in leading international journals such as Ecological Economics, Ecology and Society, Environmental Management, Frontiers in Ecology and Society, Global Environmental Change, Journal of Environmental Management, Society and Natural Resources and the UN journal, Natural Resources Forum. In addition, he is the author of Outdoor Recreation (Routledge, 2010), and co-editor of Adaptive Capacity and the Making of Environmental Governance (with D. Armitage, Springer, 2010) and Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems: the Role of Learning and Education (with M.E. Krasny and C. Lundholm, Routledge, 2011). He serves as a Subject Editor for Ecology and Society.
The scholarly quality of his research program was formally recognized in 2008 with the awarding of a Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence. In 2004 he received the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Award for Teaching Excellence and in 2008 he was selected as one of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Excellence in Education Award winners for Promotion of Sustainable Practices.