icipe’s Prof. Baldwyn Torto appointed ESA Fellow

Prof. Baldwyn Torto, a principal scientist and head of the icipe Behavioural and Chemical Ecology Unit (BCEU), is among 10 new Fellows elected by the Governing Board of the Entomological Society of America (ESA)* in 2016. Election as an ESA Fellow acknowledges outstanding contributions to entomology in one or more of the following: research, teaching, extension or administration.

Prof.  Baldwyn Torto
Prof.  Baldwyn Torto

Prof. Torto is internationally recognised for his research on the chemical ecology of disease vectors and crop pests, and in his own words, his aim is “to understand the chemical signals mediating their behaviour so as to develop environmentally-sound control methods against these insects and arthropods that harm us and our livestock, and threaten our food security and livelihoods.”

His work has led to unique discoveries in the field of vector-host interactions, demonstrating, for instance, that malaria parasite infection in mosquitoes can influence the responses of the vectors to plant odours and their feeding patterns, opening up new possibilities to control the vectors.

In addition, Prof. Torto has pioneered research towards developing environmentally friendly tools for monitoring the insects (vectors) that transmit Rift Valley fever (RVF), dengue and malaria. He has also led studies to investigate the manner in which populations of RVF vectors coincide with the patterns of the disease outbreak in Kenya, leading to the implementation of a community-based surveillance to minimise its impact.  

Further, Prof. Torto has been at the forefront of research into understanding the impact of pests and diseases for improved bee health.  And more recently, he has initiated work on entomophagy (the consumption of insects as food), an area that is being increasingly recognised for its huge potential as an alternative source of food and nutritional security in Africa.

Prof. Torto notes: “I am fortunate to have been mentored over the years by some of the best minds in the field of chemical ecology including: Prof. Ahmed Hassanali (former icipe Head of Behavioural and Chemical Ecology); Prof. John Pickett and Prof. Lester Wadhams (Rothamsted Research, UK); Prof. James H. Tumlinson (Pennsylvania State University, State College, USA) and the late Prof. Peter E.A. Teal (USDA/ARS-CMAVE, Gainesville, Florida, USA).

At icipe, Prof. Torto’s research has largely been supported by: Google.org; National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA; United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); Department for International Development (DfID), UK;  German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); the European Union (EU), Wellcome Trust, UK;  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the  National Science Foundation (BMGF/NSF); Biovision Foundation for Ecological Development and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Background information

Born in Accra, Ghana, on August 17, 1955, Prof. Baldwyn Torto obtained a BSc  in chemistry and biochemistry (1979) and an MSc (1982) from the University of Ghana under the tutelage of Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah. He then joined the icipe Africa Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS) programme on a German Academic Exchange Programme (DAAD) scholarship.

After a two-year postdoctoral (1989-1991) in the laboratories of Prof. Michael Bentley and Prof. Barbara Cole at the University of Maine, Orono, USA, Prof. Torto returned to icipe, where, for 10 years, he researched the chemical ecology of the desert locust and various crop pests, rising to the position of Senior Scientist. In 2000, he was Rothamsted International Fellow at Rothamsted Research, United Kingdom. Between 2001– 2006 he was a visiting scientist at the USDA/ARS-Centre for Medical, Agriculture, and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Florida, before returning to icipe in 2007.

Prof. Torto has mentored nine postdoctoral fellows and 36 graduate students (10 MSc and 26 PhD), and more than 50 undergraduate interns, many of whom have received prestigious awards across the globe.

He has served the ESA as a judge of students’ presentations, in the organisation of symposia and in promoting the ESA agenda in Africa. He is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, and he has also been a councilor of the International Society of Chemical Ecology, and member, American Chemical Society. He is also a member of the editorial boards of Journal of Chemical EcologyPest Management Science, and the International Journal of Tropical Insect Science.

Prof. Torto is a recipient of the distinguished icipe-ARPPIS Silver Jubilee Alumni Award for Best Achiever in Scientific Research and Innovation. He has delivered several plenary and keynote presentations at national and international conferences. He has published 104 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including three patents and six book chapters.

Torto has been married to Rita, a neurophysiologist, for 33 years, and has three sons, Obaka, Nii Sai, and Nii Soja. His hobbies include gardening, cooking, and playing the guitar.

*The Entomological Society of America is the largest organisation in the world serving the professional and scientific needs of entomologists and people in related disciplines. Founded in 1889, ESA today has more than 7,000 members affiliated with educational institutions, health agencies, private industry, and government. Members are researchers, teachers, extension service personnel, administrators, marketing representatives, research technicians, consultants, students, and hobbyists. The new ESA Fellows will be recognised during the International Congress of Entomology, which will be held from 25-30 September 2016 in Orlando, Florida, USA. For more information, including a complete list of the 2016 ESA Fellows:  visit http://www.entsoc.org.

For more information on the icipe Behavioural and Chemical Ecology Unit, visit: http://www.icipe.org/research/research-support-units/behavioural-and-che...