Bacterial community composition and succession were examined over the course of the summer season in the Great South Bay, Long Island, NY, USA, using a 16S rDNA clone library approach. There was a progression of changes in dominant species in the libraries during the summer of 1997. The July library had several groups dominant, the SAR407 relatives of the alpha-Proteobacteria (24%) and the SAR86 (18%), sulfur-oxidizing symbiont relatives (8%) of the gamma-Proteobacteria, and unidentified Cytophaga-Flexibacter representatives (22%). In August, the Cytophaga-Flexibacter (Gelidibacter sp. and unidentified Cytophaga-Flexibacter representative) and Cyanobacteria (Synechococcus sp.) increased to 28% and 14%, respectively. High GC Gram-positives appeared at 18%, and beta-Proteobacteria (Ralstonia sp.) at 10%. By September these groups had either declined or were absent, while the SAR86 cluster, Pseudoalteromonas and Alteromonas of the gamma-Proteobacteria were dominant in the community (61%). The dominance of open ocean bacteria along with the presence of Aureococcus anophagefferens (Pelagophyceae) in July suggests possible open ocean coupling to bloom events. Many clones in this study were related to previously described clones from a wide distribution of marine environments, substantiating the cosmopolitan nature of pelagic bacteria. Only one isolated bacterium was closely related to 16S rDNA found in the August library.