Baldwyn Torto, ESA Fellow (2016)

Dr. Baldwyn Torto, principal scientist and head of the Chemical Ecology Unit, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi, Kenya, was elected as Fellow in 2016. He is internationally recognized for his research on the chemical ecology of mosquito vectors of infectious diseases, crop pests, honeybees, and research into entomophagy.

Torto was born in Accra, Ghana, in 1955. He completed his B.Sc. with honors in chemistry and biochemistry (1979) and M.Sc. (1982) and Ph.D. (1988) in organic chemistry at the University
of Ghana. He conducted his Ph.D. research in insect chemical ecology at ICIPE. He was a postdoctoral associate (1989–1991) at the University of Maine, Orono. In 1991, he accepted a
scientist position at ICIPE and was promoted to senior scientist in 2000. He was a Rothamsted International Fellow (2000) at Rothamsted Research, United Kingdom, and visiting scientist at the USDA/ARS-Centre for Medical, Agriculture, and Veterinary Entomology, Gainesville, Florida (2001–2006). He returned to ICIPE in 2007 as principal scientist and research leader of the
Behavioral and Chemical Ecology Unit.

Torto made unique discoveries in the field of vector-host interactions, demonstrating that malaria parasite infection in mosquitoes can influence vector responses to plant odors and their feeding, opening up new avenues for vector control. His lab pioneered work into the development of more efficient semiochemical-based tools for monitoring vector populations of Rift Valley Fever (RVF), dengue, and malaria. He also led genetic studies to reveal unique population structure of primary RVF vectors, which coincides with the pattern of disease outbreak in Kenya, and implemented an integrated community-based surveillance of RVF in order to minimize the public and veterinary health impact of the disease. Additionally, he has been at the forefront of research into understanding the impact of pests and diseases for improved bee health. More recently, he initiated work on entomophagy, an area increasingly recognized as having a huge potential to feed the ever growing rural and urban population in Africa. He gave several plenary and keynote presentations at national and international conferences. He published 104 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including three patents and six book chapters.

Torto mentored nine postdoctoral fellows and 36 graduate students (10 M.Sc. and 26 Ph.D.), and more than 50 undergraduate interns, many of whom have received prestigious awards across the globe.

Torto served the ESA as a judge of students’ presentations, organized symposia, and promoted the ESA in Africa. He is a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences, and served as councilor to the International Society of Chemical Ecology, and member of the American Chemical Society. He serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Chemical Ecology, Pest Management Science, and International Journal of Tropical Insect Science. He received the distinguished ICIPE-African Regional Postgraduate Programme in Insect Science (ARPPIS) Silver Jubilee Alumni Award for Best Achiever in Scientific Research and Innovation.

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.

(updated November, 2016)