I am an Australian living in Switzerland. I live with two sons born in Switzerland and going to school here. I also have two adult daughters who live in Australia. I grew up on the north coast of NSW and moved to Sydney at the age of 14, where I later went to university and trained as a physicist. While doing my PhD I became more interested in population health issues and made my career in developing national health statistics for Australia. Since moving to Geneva in the year 2000 to work for the World Health Organization (WHO) on global health statistics, you could say I have become a global health observer. I have recently retired from WHO and continue to do some part-time consulting work, as well as pursuing other interests.

I have kept a journal on and off since teenage years and am also a keen photographer.  This site is an experiment to post images and to write about them and about some of my other interests. You can get an idea of these from the categories on my blog, and I expect these to evolve and change as I go. I hope to develop my writing skills as well as to document some of my explorations and adventures, and to aim to post on various topics of interest to me. I am not sure just how regular my posts will be. Time will tell.

Colin pointing to the Alps

I have been a keen bushwalker, caver, canyoner and kayaker since university days, and have dabbled in rock climbing and alpine climbing, but basically I just like being in the mountains. When I came to Switzerland, I took up alpine skiing also. I decided to name the blog “Mountains and Rivers” to reflect my love of the mountains and outdoors as well as my interest in Zen practice (the Mountains and Rivers sutra is one of the best known writings of the medieval Japanese Zen master Dogen Zenji).

I am largely keeping this site as a personal blog, not related to my professional work. If you want to know more about that, google can help, or you can take  look at:





© Colin Douglas Mathers, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without my written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Colin Douglas Mathers and this Mountains and Rivers blog with appropriate citation or link to the original content.

11 thoughts on “About

    • THank you for your confidence in me. I am certainly full of ideas for blogging and semi-compose things in my head as I am driving to work or similarly occupied with non-brain-involving activity. But actually doing it….I shall have to develop some focus and make time. The busyness of life is a problem at present, I am hoping to change that somewhat. But the blog may be a slow or spasmodic developer for the present.

  1. Hi Colin,

    Just before departing for July sessin with my teacher Rolf Drosten Roshi, one of the Dharma heirs of Aitken Roshi, I found the photo of Aitken roshi, Bolleter roshi, et al. at your homepage. For private use, I have photo-shopped it to get a good portrait of Aitken roshi.

    May I use this excellent portrait of Aitken Roshi officially?

    Cheers, Björn

    Björn Lindgren

  2. Hi Colin. Fascinating to read your ancient ancient posts of the U5 haplogroup. I’m trying to research mine, I have U5b2b as my own. But I know little about how it developed and where it migrated to after u5a and u5b came about. Is there any sources I can use to learn further what happened after the to new subclades were Created? I would really appreciate your advice



    • Oliver, thanks.I’m glad you enjoyed my posts. There is much less information about the more recent detailed U5 subgroups than for equivalent Y DNA subgroups. Unfortunately, the mitochondrial DNA is much smaller than the Y chromosome and so accumulates fewer mutations over time, limiting the resolution of the migration paths that can be established. A starting point is the SNP tracker website http://scaledinnovation.com/gg/snpTracker.html . On the top page there is a map. You can enter U5b2b in the box for SNP and select the symbol beside it for females (circle with cross below). It will display the “migration path” to U5b2b based on an average of the locations of earliest known ancestors of people who have tested to have that subclade. Read the caveats on the site, because this method of calculating location has severe limitations based not only on the fact that earliest known ancestors may bear no relation to location of ancient ancestors, but also will be biased by the location distribution of the people who get tests done AND by the fact that the average may bear no relation to the actual location (eg- if there were only 2 data points, one in Spain and the other in Russia, the average could lie in Germany). Increasingly, ancestral locations are being established based on sequencing of ancient DNA from prehistoric remains and this is improving location estimates as more remains are sequenced. The snpTracker does take ancient remains into account in estimating location, but not sure how often this is updated or how up-to-date it is.

      My only other suggestion is to do some web searching for other people who may have investigated U5b2b migration. This could include academic research papers or websites like mine. A basic starting point is the Wikipedia article on haplogroup U https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_U_(mtDNA) which says “U5b2b arose between 12,000 and 17,000 years ago.[45] The clade was notably linked to Neve, who, at the time of her discovery, was the oldest identified female infant burial in Europe, carbon-dated to around 10,000 years ago.”

      You might also be able to get a more detailed test that would identify more recent subclade branches. I’ve gone 2 further steps using a test with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA.com) and they also have some information on migration paths and dates. But the most recent subclades in the last couple of thousand years have very large uncertainty in estimated dates of occurrence, and quite likely in location (since there will be few examples typically on which to base location).

      The current reference nomenclature for maternal haplogroups can be found at http://phylotree.org/

  3. Good evening!

    I stumbled upon your maternal ancestry page when trying to find out which “nation” (or rather, branch) the builders of Stonehenge belonged to. Myself being of Polish origin, I once tried out a genetic test from Living DNA and got the following result:

    Y-DNA R1a (R-Z280) vs. mtDNA J1 (without any further details).

    R1a is fairly common amongst Eastern Europeans and appears in very old cultures like Yamna or Karassuk. J1 on the other hand does puzzle me, as it’s quite frequent (19 %) amongst Polish Gypsies. As far as I know about my own ancestry, I have no Gypsy or Jewish ancestors. So where do I have haplogroup J1 from?

    • Good morning! I did a bit of quick research on J1. According to Wikipedia, maternal haplogroup J arose around 45,000 years ago in the near east or Caucasus and a further mutation in a J woman resulted in the J1 haplogroup (around 27,000 years ago). J1 accounts for 80% of haplogroup J and is spread across Europe with an overall frequency of around 11%. While the Polish Roma have the highest observed frequency of J1 at 19%, it is also present at other populations, for example, Ireland — 12%, England-Wales — 11%, Germany — 7%, Russia (European) — 7%, Iceland — 7%, Poland — 6%, Austria-Switzerland — 5%, Finland-Estonia — 5%. While its possible you might have a maternal ancestor who was Polish Roma, all you can really conclude is that a line of your maternal ancestors are descended from the original J1 woman, who lived in the near east around 45,000 years ago. Almost certainly these J1 maternal ancestors lived in Europe (and could have been anywhere in Europe) and were part of the early hunter-gather population who moved back into northern Europe at the end of the last ice age, around 14,000 years ago. My maternal ancestors likely retreated during the ice age to the Basque country. Other northern Europeans retreated to Italy and the Ukraine. Possibly your J1 ancestors returned to northern Europe from one of these.

      My Y haplogroup is a subclade of R1b. In another post here (https://mountainsrivers.com/2020/07/16/my-paternal-ancestors-from-adam-via-ice-age-siberia-to-the-steppes-of-europe/), I have traced my paternal ancestral haplogroups from Y-DNA Adam (around 275,000 years ago in Cameroon) down to haplogroup R1, which arose around 23,000 years ago on the Eurasian steppes (possibly in Kazakhstan). The defining mutations for R1a and R1b occurred around 22,000 and 20,000 years ago. R1a likely arose somewhere near the Caspian Sea, likely in Iran.

      R1a and R1b likely both arrived in western Europe with the Yamnana, nomadic horse warriors from the Caspian steppes, whose DNA became dominant in Europe around 5000 years ago. I describe this Steppes invasion in a second post at https://mountainsrivers.com/2021/02/04/my-paternal-ancestors-european-journey-from-the-caspian-steppes-to-celtiberia/. Look under R-ZZ1 heading for a description of how the Yamnana Y-DNA largely replaced the previous hunter-gatherer Y-DNA.

      So like me, your maternal ancestors date back to the early hunter-gatherer cultures of Western Europe, whereas your paternal ancestors arrived much more recently around 5000 years ago with the invasion of the Steppes nomadic Yamnana culture.

      • To be precise: The frequencies you stated as examples are in fact for the “basal” haplogroup J*, not for J1. Nevertheless, you can learn quite much about your ancestry from DNA test results.

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