This article presents a personal perspective on an academic and research vocation spanning a period of over 45 years. It starts with my early involvement in geography and climatology and terminates with my recent experience in a large interdisciplinary research venture. The presentation highlights, with specific examples, the importance of mentors. Also emphasized is the indispensable input of colleagues and graduate students to successful research endeavours. Most of my career has been centred on McMaster University, and I naturally draw on my experiences there. There have been great changes in the research world over the past few decades. Although the number of faculty and graduate students at McMaster remained relatively constant, the research output per person more than doubled. This is attributed in large part to the accelerating technological advancements in our ability to measure and our ability to process and manipulate data. In the environmental sciences, this has revolutionized the spatial and temporal scope of the scientific questions that can be addressed. Such major changes have stimulated a marked trend towards interdisciplinary research that has evolved from mainly wishful talking to active pursuit in a search to understand complex environmental interactions. Important among these is gaining insights into the processes and feedbacks driving climate change, whether natural or anthropologically induced. Equally important is gaining an understanding of the potential impacts resulting from climate change. My perception of my successes, failures and near misses divides chronologically into three periods that cover research in the early years, research in the central subarctic and research in the Mackenzie River Basin.