Hawthorne's research is at the interface between people and the environment, more specifically how ecological systems are impacted by humans and the implications of this for management of ecological and social systems. His ecological research focuses on understanding how disease and population dynamics interact and the implications of this for management of hosts, vectors and pathogens. Some of the disease systems he has worked on include rabies in East Africa, ticks and burrelia in North America and chlamydia in Queensland koalas. His applied work focuses on promoting evidence-based management in a decision theory and optimisation framework. This includes using models of ecological dynamics to inform policy and management, identifying optimally efficient strategies for addressing spatial planning problems (e.g. restoration prioritisation, disease control), and using simulation to predict the impacts of policy change.