Toby obtained a BSc in Biology at University College London and an MSc in Applied Entomology from Imperial College London before embarking on his PhD at the University of Greenwich on "The Olfactory Basis for Attraction of the Bollworm Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) to Host-Plant Flowers". He started at Rothamsted in 2000 and was promoted to band 5 in 2007.
Toby's aim is to improve crop protection by using chemical ecology to develop innovative approaches to pest management. Chemical Ecology is the study of mechanisms of chemical communication between organisms. His research focuses in particular on the chemical ecology of host location in insects and on alarm and sex pheromone signals. He developed the theory of how insects use ratios of ubiquitous volatiles rather than compounds taxonomically characteristic of their host (Bruce et al, 2005). As well as advancing these fundamental aspects, he has devised strategies for utilising semiochemicals for insect pest management at the field level ranging from plant activators that switch on plant defence to pheromone monitoring systems. As a direct result of his research and development work, pheromone traps are commercially available to wheat growers in the UK. As volatile semiochemicals are difficult to formulate Toby has developed approaches utilising essential oils to protect the unstable compounds such as aphid alarm pheromone, (E)-ß-farnesene and GM plants that emit this aphid repellent semiochemical. He has a new project developing wheat plants expressing aphid alarm pheromone. He is also involved in a collaborative project with icipe in Kenya on an innovative system of pest management known as "Push-Pull" which uses locally available companion plants.