Dr. Hawthorne is a 2022 National Geographic Explorer and a tenured, associate professor of geographic information systems (GIS) in the department of sociology. He also serves as the UCF Sociology Graduate Program Director. He is a public scholar broadly trained in human geography with expertise in community geography and Geographic Information Systems, social and environmental inequalities, critical GIS, Participatory GIS (PGIS), mixed methods, STEAM education, Belize and citizen science. He also serves as graduate director in the department of sociology (beginning August 8, 2020). He joined UCF to co-lead the College of Sciences GIS Cluster Initiative in August 2015. He has received over $4.76 million in funding including seven awards from the U.S. National Science Foundation. He has published over 25 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals spanning multiple disciplines with numerous student co-authors.

He currently serves as Principal Investigator of a NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) Site in Orlando and Belize. This work includes students and K-12 teachers in research focused on social and environmental inequalities relates to flooding and litter in Belize. The work is in collaboration with Co-PI Dr. Lain Graham (Esri and UCF Affiliated Faculty), Dr. Hannah Torres (former Co-PI, University of New Mexico) and Dr. Christy C. Visaggi (former Co-PI of Georgia State University). The REU/RET Site has received over $800,000 on funding from NSF since 2015 and has included over 70% of its participants from underrepresented groups in STEAM in an effort to broaden participation in science.

Inspired by work with students and community partners, in 2015, he founded an internationally-recognized research group called Citizen Science GIS. The group’s goal is to connect scientists and society through the use of geospatial technologies to make science more accessible and responsive to community concerns. Simply put, the work aims to work with communities rather than in communities. Citizen Science GIS was awarded a 2017 Esri Special Achievement in GIS Award (one of four such awards for higher education teams worldwide) demonstrating the appeal and significance of their public scholarship to broader society. Dr. Hawthorne was named a 2022 GIS Hero from Esri for his work leading Citizen Science GIS.

In early 2022, Citizen Science GIS designed and launched the nation’s first GeoBus™. GeoBus is a mobile STEAM learning lab powered by solar on a repurposed 40-foot city bus that provides geospatial technology learning experiences to K-12 youth and teachers across Florida. GeoBus thrives on partnerships, including Lynx, 15lightyears, and National Geographic Society, GeoBus extends the team’s previous STEAM education outreach efforts in their Maps, Apps, and Drones Tour which has inspired over 10,000 youth in Central Florida schools from 2017 to 2021.

Dr. Hawthorne serves as Co-PI on $1.26 million NSF grant led by Dr. Emmett Duffy (PI) and the Smithsonian’s MarineGeo program. The UCF team led by Hawthorne and former post-doc Dr. Bo Yang works with students and partners to drone map seagrass beds at Smithsonian field sites along the western coast of North America from San Diego to Alaska.

Dr. Hawthorne earned his PhD in Geography in 2010 from The Department of Geography at The Ohio State University where he worked under the direction of Dr. Mei-Po Kwan.  He received his M.A. in Geography in 2005 from the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University where he worked under the direction of Dr. Daniel Weiner.  Dr. Hawthorne is also a 2003 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Geography with a minor in English where he was advised by Dr. John Krygier.

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