The Roots for Real DNA databases have been developed since 1991 by leading geneticist Dr. Peter Forster (based in Cambridge), mathematician Dr Arne Röhl (based in Hamburg) and members of Fluxus Technology Ltd.
Combining their own data with DNA sequences published in scientific journals worldwide, Dr. Forster and Dr. Röhl have built up the world's most comprehensive database matching mtDNA to geography. Most samples in the database are from native inhabitants where there has been no significant movement in their ancestry in recorded history. Each publication has been examined and checked for errors (which unfortunately are not that uncommonly made by scientists). Currently the database has well over 45,000 samples, spanning the entire world.
The database was used during the production of the BBC2 documentary "Motherland - A Genetic Journey", screened in February 2003, and also in the PBS documentary "African American Lives" , screened in February 2006.
Dr. Peter Forster, born in 1967, studied chemistry at the universities of Kiel and Hamburg, specialised in genetics at the Heinrich-Pette-Institute of Virology and Immunology in Hamburg and received his PhD in Biology in 1997. After postdoctoral research at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Münster until 1999, he was appointed research fellow at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in Cambridge. From 1995-1999 he co-developed (with H.-J. Bandelt and A. Röhl and others) phylogenetic network analysis of mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosomal DNA, and linguistic data. In 1999 he was appointed Dean and Fellow of New Hall, editor of the International Journal of Legal Medicine, and Founding Member of the Junge Akademie in Berlin.
Dr. Arne Röhl, born in 1969, studied mathematics at the University of Hamburg and wrote his PhD thesis on phylogenetic network analysis of DNA under supervision of Prof. H.-J. Bandelt, (Hamburg) and Prof. B. Brinkmann (University of Münster) in 1999.
Dr Susan Gurney has recently joined the team. She studied cell biology and pathology at the University of St Andrews and received an MSc in molecular biology from Cambridge University. As part of her PhD at the University of Münster, she studied genetics and forensics.
Publications of Dr. Forster and Dr. Röhl include
Watson E, Forster P, Richards MB, Bandelt H-J (1997) Mitochondrial footprints of human expansions in Africa. American Journal of Human Genetics 61:691-704
Bandelt H-J, Forster P, Röhl A (1999) Median-joining networks for inferring intraspecific phylogenies. Mol Biol Evol 16:37-48
Forster P, Torroni A, Renfrew C, Roehl A (2001) Phylogenetic Star Contraction Applied to Asian and Papuan mtDNA Evolution. Molecular Biology and Evolution 18: 1861 – 1881
Forster P, Cali F, Roehl A, Metspalu E, D’Anna R, Mirisola M, De Leo G, Flugy A, Salerno A, Ayala G, Kouvatsi A, Villems R, Romano V (2002) Continental and Subcontinental Distributions of mtDNA Control Region Types. International Journal of Legal Medicine 116: 99 – 108
Bandelt H-J, Roehl A (2008) Quasi-Median Hulls in Hamming Space are Steiner Hulls. Discrete Applied Mathematics, doi:10.1016/j.dam.2006.09.015