Baby shad – called fry – don't look like much. Their eyes are tiny dots, connected to the squiggly line of their spines. But Jeannette O’Connor thinks they’re the cutest things she's ever seen.
"If someone told me five years ago that I would think these things are the most adorable things in the world, I would have told them they were nuts," she says.
O'Connor is director of school based programs for Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region, which helps students raise shad fry and release them back into local rivers.
Out of every 3,000 fry, only a handful survives to become adult fish. Still, O'Connor says, the students' efforts are crucial.
"The job of those fry is just as much to feed the ecosystem as to become adult fish and spawn again," she says.
Students from 40 area schools helped hatch the fry and release them into the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.