National Geographic Selects State Steward from UCF

UCF Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Systems Timothy Hawthorne, Ph.D., has been named The Florida Geography Steward by National Geographic.

As the Geography Steward for the state of Florida, Hawthorne will work with National Geographic staff, government staff, teachers, parents, business leaders and other stakeholders to enhance K-12 geography education and research in Florida and the United States.

Timothy Hawthorne, Ph.D.

Hawthorne and his student team are already working with local educators to bring geospatial technologies and spatial thinking to underserved schools with a successful maps, apps and drones tour, a K-12 education and outreach program. The program allows K-12 students to fly Parrot Mambo mini-drones over coastal models, understand elevation and topography changes through an Augmented Reality Sandbox and interact with layers of geographic data in online mapping applications. The tour is just one of the innovative ways in which Hawthorne and his team are working to inspire science’s next generation.

“National Geographic is thrilled to have Dr. Tim Hawthorne join us as the Geography Steward for the state of Florida. Tim is already doing innovative work in citizen science and GIS, and we will look forward to working together to bring even more geography education resources to Florida’s educators and students,” said Carley Lovorn, Regional Director of the National Geographic Society Educator Network.

Hawthorne has a strong relationship with National Geographic. At his previous university, he served as State Coordinator and Director of Research for the Georgia Geographic Alliance with National Geographic.

“I am humbled and honored to serve as the geography steward for Florida in this newly created role. It’s an exciting time for geographic education and research, and our team is eager to serve the young people of Florida and teachers as we inspire science’s next generation,” Hawthorne said. “I hope to serve as a leading voice for geography and geography education on behalf of National Geographic to better prepare educators and students to become geographically competent. My goal as geography steward is simple: I want the future generation of scientists to be exposed to and inspired by geography, spatial thinking, and in-demand geospatial technologies to solve the world’s greatest challenges.”

One of his first duties is to form a state advisory board, which will be committed to thinking about statewide partnerships and funding for geographic education and research. Serving as the state steward, Hawthorne will continue his research and outreach with his Citizen Science GIS student team and their community partners, but given this unique opportunity, his work and that of the Citizen Science GIS team will be elevated to the next level.

“We’ve always encouraged our Citizen Science GIS team and the young people and teachers we work with to dream big. This new partnership with National Geographic allows us to take our next big step,” Hawthorne said. “It recognizes our innovative work and allows us to develop new partnerships that can support our outreach work, including the nation’s first GeoBus.”

With the success of the maps, apps and drones tour that has served over 2200 youth and teachers in just nine short months, Hawthorne’s team will soon unveil an ambitious plan to transport maps, apps and drones to high-need school districts on a mobile science lab on a big bus.

The GeoBus is a 40-foot city bus retrofitted with an interior decked out with in-demand technologies for an immersive STEAM education learning experiences. GeoBus serves as a mobile STEAM education lab, focused on maps, apps and drones for citizen science.

“I am thrilled to take our geographic education and research initiatives to the next level as the State Steward, particularly as we launch the nation’s first GeoBus and related education outreach events to inspire science’s next generation with maps, apps, and drones,” Hawthorne said.

Learn how you can get the GeoBus rolling.

Teachers wishing to be considered for the State of Florida Advisory Council should contact Hawthorne directly at

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