Globetrotting Métis woman making connections with Indigenous communities

Geophysicist helping to open doors of opportunity for First Nations through energy projects

By Gregory John
Thalia Aspeslet (right) with her son Ethan and his dad Jordan Asels.

Coming from rural Alberta roots, Métis geophysicist and community relations specialist Thalia Aspeslet couldn’t have imagined how large her world would one day become.

The journey to become a globetrotter and community builder wasn’t an easy one for Aspeslet, who spent a large majority of her teen years moving from small town to small town in northern Alberta after being born in Grimshaw,  a small community some 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

“I was exposed to Indigenous racism and poverty, which made it hard for me to identify with my Indigenous heritage,” says Aspeslet, noting that identity was often met with negativity while she was growing up.

It wasn’t until Aspeslet was welcomed into the University of Calgary’s Writing Symbols Lodge (formerly the Native Centre) that she firmly connected with her Métis roots.

“For the first time in my life, I had a place at the Writing Symbols Lodge where I could be proud of my Indigenous heritage where would could share stories, and through that sharing find common ground between the staff and students in that centre.”

Aspeslet’s road from small town Alberta to world traveler was more by happenstance than by design.

It wasn’t until she began high school upgrading at Calgary’s Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in preparation for university that her career trajectory changed forever, in one of the most unexpected places.

“I was reading a short story in my English class where the main character was a geophysicist who travelled the world — and it was that moment that I decided that is what I wanted to be.

“At the time, I didn’t even know what a geophysicist was,” says Aspeslet with a laugh. “But if I got to see the world through this career choice, that was good enough for me.”

Fast forward nearly a decade, the mother of one has spent time in the Netherlands, Texas, Utah, and even southern Spain in her capacity as a geophysicist – a dream that was realized while working for Royal Dutch Shell out of the company’s Calgary office.

Aspeslet credits Deborah Green, who was Shell’s Indigenous recruitment specialist when she completed her geophysics degree from the University of Calgary, for helping her realize “there was a path in bridging my degree with real opportunity.”

Soon after graduation, she was hired as an intern at Shell, which eventually led to full-time employment with the energy giant’s subsurface assessment group. She worked through technical roles with the company as a geophysicist-in-training that eventually allowed her to move into an external relations role.

“Throughout my career, I could never shake the impact on community by my technical work,” says Aspeslet. “I am trained to understand the impacts of oil and gas subsurface but couldn’t ignore the above ground effects on people and environment – especially within Indigenous lands.”

And by being a part of building those relationships with Indigenous communities, Aspeslet has seen the positive impacts through involvement with energy projects.

“Through energy, you have a real impact on the communities you partner with,” says Aspeslet who now acts as a Community Relations Officer with Pieridae Energy.

“You’re able to support community education and training initiatives that serve a community need, not just a project need.”

Aspeslet credits her experience with the U of C’s Writing Symbols Lodge that formed the basis for her achievements within energy today, and helped her decide that Calgary was where she wanted to make her home with her son Ethan.

“The level of regulatory rigour is world class in Canada and it is through that rigour where, in partnership, Indigenous prosperity and project excellence, is possible – I am excited to have found a place in my career where I can be a part of that realization.”