Ryan Prosser

Headshot of Ryan Prosser
Associate Professor
Phone number: 
(519) 824-4120 Ext. 52190
Bovey Bldg., Rm 2226
Bovey Bldg, Rm 2229

Growing up, Ryan always loved being outside and near the water. From family camping trips, canoe trips and summer camps, he always had a love for the environment. He chose to study biology in university not quite knowing where it would take him. After completing teacher’s college, Ryan taught chemistry to grade 11 and 12 students in Kuwait, but always had the idea of research in the back of his mind. When he returned to Canada he chose to pursue grad school and was able to find a topic that combined his interest in biology and chemistry, with his love of the outdoors - environmental toxicology. Today Ryan’s research looks at the impact of chemicals or the mixture of chemicals on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. 

Academic History 

  • B.Sc., Queens University (2002)
  • B.Ed., University of Wollongong, Australia (2003)
  • B.Sc., Honours, University of Guelph (2011)
  • Ph.D., Environmental Toxicology (2014)
  • PDF., Aquatic Contaminants Research Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017) 

Affiliations and Partnerships 

  • Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 
  • Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada
  • Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans 

Research Impact

Ryan’s research focuses on chemicals, such as pesticides, used in agriculture, as well as industrial chemicals, and what impact they have on the environment. His research also investigates how we can reduce the potential negative impacts that the chemicals we use in society have on the environment. Another interesting aspect of his research is his work with fresh water mussels. Southern Ontario has the greatest diversity of fresh-water mussels in Canada, and North America itself has more mussel species than anywhere else in the world. However, most of them are either threatened or endangered. Ryan is looking at the impact that humans have on fresh water mussels, how we can preserve the populations we have, as well as how we can help them flourish. 

Current Research Projects 

The risk of microplastics to Canada's ecosystems

In this project, we will characterize the microplastic content of wastewater effluent and biosolids across the country. This project will also examine how the composition of microplastics changes in the soil environment, which provides information on the chemicals that may be released into the soil as microplastics degrade and how the ability of microplastics sorb other chemicals changes. We will also characterize the level of microplastic contamination that occurs to soils through the land application of biosolids and municipal compost and the use of plastic mulch in certain types of agriculture. Along with generating data on the exposure of freshwater and soil ecosystems to microplastics, we will determine the level of microplastics in freshwater and soil that can have an adverse effect on micro- and macroinvertebrates and the microbial community. Understanding the level of microplastic contamination in Canada's freshwater and soil ecosystems and how microplastics can have an adverse effect on biota in these ecosystems is critical to assessing the risk of microplastics. A robust ecological risk assessment of microplastics is one of the important first steps in managing this pollution issue and developing policy to protect Canada's natural resources. The knowledge produced by this collaborative multi-disciplinary project will guide the policy and decision making needed to address the impact that plastics are having on the environment.

Investigating the potential risk of novel fire suppression gels to ecosystems

Fire suppression gels are mixed with water to help put out residential, commercial, industrial, and forest fires faster. This project is examining the toxicity of these fire suppression gels to aquatic species, such as rainbow trout, waterflea and burrowing mayfly and terrestrial species such as earthworms, various plant species, and springtails. This toxicity data will be used to determine the potential risk of these fire suppression gels to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.

When are freshwater mussels populations stressed?

Southern Ontario contains the most diverse freshwater mussel community in Canada. However, roughly half of the species in this community are considered threatened or endangered. This project is investigating whether combining the non-lethal extraction of hemolymph (mussel blood) and non-targeted metabolomic analysis can help us to identify when populations may be stressed.

What risk does salt-laden road runoff pose to freshwater mussel species in Ontario?

Ontario has a diverse community of threatened freshwater mussels, which are relatively sensitive to exposure to chloride. Chloride is a major component of salt-laden road runoff. This project is investigating the effect that pulses of chloride as a result of road runoff during melt events have on freshwater mussel populations and communities.

Graduate Student Information 

Working with his graduate students, Ryan says he tries to strike a balance between being too involved and not involved enough. He does this by holding bi-weekly meetings with all grad students to see where everybody is at with their projects and what they need. Otherwise Ryan’s door is always open and he relies on his students to come to him if they need anything. He sees his students as the drivers of their projects and leaves them responsible for planning, execution, and to present what they found. If you are interested in working with Ryan, check his website for current opportunities and reach out via email. 

Featured publications 

Jacques, O.*, and Prosser, R.S. 2021. A probabilistic risk assessment of microplastics in soil ecosystems. Science of the Total Environment, 757:143987.

Gasparini, L., Crookes, S., Prosser, R.S., Hanner, R. 2020. Detection of freshwater mussels (Unionidae) using environmental DNA in riverine systems. Environmental DNA, 2:321-329.

Prosser, R.S., Lynn, D., Salerno, J.*, Bennett, C.J., and Gillis, P.L. 2018. The facultatively parasitic ciliated protozoa, Tetrahymena glochidiophila (Lynn, 2018), causes reduction in viability of freshwater mussel glochidia. Invertebrate Pathology, 157:25-31. (note: Discovered and named new species, Tetrahymena glochidiophila)
Prosser, R.S., Rochfort, Q., McInnis, R., Exall, K., and Gillis, P.L. 2017. Assessing the toxicity of salt-impacted winter road runoff to the early life stages of freshwater mussels. Environmental Pollution, 230:589-597.
Prosser, R.S. and Sibley, P.K. 2015. Human health risk assessment of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in plant tissue due to biosolids and manure amendments, and wastewater irrigation. Environment International, 75:223-233.
Prosser, R.S., Lissemore, L.I., Topp, E., and Sibley, P.K. 2014. Bioaccumulation of triclosan and triclocarban in plants grown in soils amended with municipal dewatered biosolids. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 33:975-984. 

For a full list of Ryan’s publications, please visit his Research Gate page.