Ritual is everywhere in the natural world. From braving flight over expansive, stormy seas, to the tenuous, exhausting work of rearing chicks, to squabbling for social rank on the wintering grounds, birds tread and hop and fly recognizable annual patterns.
And so do field biology graduate students.
Our most obvious ritual is the field season. Our study subjects follow an annual pattern and so must we: the ornithologists out May through August, give-or-take; my labmates the high-elevation chipmunk researchers waiting impatiently in June for the snow on Tioga Pass to melt; those studying South American fauna gone in our winter for the Southern Hemisphere summer. Only the tropical biologists are unpredictable.