Robert Ballard, fittingly, called me from the beach. Fitting because it’s hard to picture one of the world’s foremost ocean explorers—the man who found the wreck of the Titanic, a man who has conducted more than 120 deep-sea expeditions—ever straying too far from the open water. In his 55-year career, Ballard told me he’s seen interest in ocean exploration—and the funding that comes with it—ebb and flow. And right now, we’re in an ebb. “I don’t think I’ve heard our current president ever even say the word ‘ocean,’” Ballard said. “That doesn’t help.” The slice of the US federal budget carved out for scientific research dipped to just 4 percent in 2015, compared to 10 percent in 1968, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the same time federal funding has shrunk, the number of scientists in this country has ballooned, and the cost of doing research has grown. There are more people scrambling to split an ever-shrinking piece of the pie.