A graduate of Lawrence High School in Fairfield spent his summer studying bats as part of a conservation effort that could put some of the animals on the endangered species list.

Zackary Hann, who graduated in 2009 and is now a senior studying biology at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., worked with two other students and a faculty adviser to study the natural habitat of the eastern red bat, an elusive creature about the same weight as a half-dollar coin.

“What makes it difficult to locate the red bats is that they roost in trees and, as their name suggests, they’re red,” Hann said. “With their fur coloration and their tendency to hang by one foot, they look exactly like a dead leaf.”

Hann, 20, concentrated on roosting behavior, but he gathered other data, including bats’ ages, genders, weights and forearm lengths.

In sites throughout West Virginia, Hann set up 6-by-9-meter nets to capture the bats.

Then he attached tracking devices to lead to their roosting locations. But even with the devices, finding the exact locations was a challenge.

Information gathered on the habitat of the bats will sharpen the focus of conservation efforts, he said.

“In Virginia, very little is known about their habitat requirements. Once we do have some sort of understanding, we can then begin to better protect the species,” Hann said.

Bats play an important role in natural world by eating up to 1,000 insects an hour and eating fruit and plant nectar, helping to pollinate plants, according to Bat Conservation International.

The study is a project of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which was petitioned to classify the animals as endangered.

The listing would help protect bat habitat and start some conservation work.

In addition to habitat conservation, information gathered on the bat can be used as a springboard for scientists to launch additional studies, Hann said.

“They are a unique mammal that many don’t have a very good understanding of,” he said.