RI lawmakers approve bill to designate an official state coral

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Courtesy: Eric Heupel, Flickr Creative Commons

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island is one step closer to naming a state coral.

House lawmakers approved legislation that would make the northern star coral, which is the only type found in Rhode Island waters, the state’s official coral.

The idea to designate a state coral originally came from Roger Williams University marine biologist Koty Sharp. The northern star coral can live in both cold and warm water, which allows researchers to learn more about the impacts of climate change and pollution.

“Species like the northern star coral can be a bellwether that shows us where we are headed if we continue to abuse and pollute the earth. We should pay attention to it,” Rep. Terri Cortivend, one of the bill’s sponsors said.

Cortivend said while the bill is “somewhat lighthearted and fun,” she hopes it will encourage everyone to take a closer look at the impacts of the ongoing climate crisis.

“These tiny polyps have a lot to tell us about we’re doing to our planet, and designating them our state coral can amplify that message,” she added.

Cortivend said she’s happy to promote the designation of a state coral because it puts a spotlight on the research being conducted at Roger Williams University, in turn highlighting the importance of addressing climate change.

The bill now heads to the Senate, which approved its own version of the legislation back in April. The House and Senate now must approve each other’s proposals before it’s sent to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk for his signature.

If the bill becomes law, Rhode Island will be the first and only state to have an official state coral.

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