Pony Lake, at Cape Royds, Antarctica, is a shallow, eutrophic, coastal lake that freezes solid in the winter. Changes in Pony Lake's physicochemical parameters and microbial community were studied during the transition from ice to open water. Due to rising water temperatures, the progressive melt of the ice column and the gradual mixing of basal brines into the remaining water column, Pony Lake evolved physically and chemically over the course of the summer, thereby affecting the microbial community composition. Temperature, pH, conductivity, nutrients and major ion concentrations reached their maximum in January. Pony Lake was colonized by bacteria, viruses, phytoflagellates, ciliates, and a small number of rotifers. Primary and bacterial production were highest in mid-December (2.66 mg C l-1 d-1 and 30.5 μg C l-1 d-1, respectively). A 16S rRNA gene analysis of the bacterioplankton revealed 34 unique sequences dominated by members of the β- and γ-proteobacteria lineages. Cluster analyses on denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) banding patterns and community structure indicated a shift in the dominant members of the microbial community during the transition from winter ice, to early, and late summer lakewater. Our data demonstrate that temporal changes in physicochemical parameters during the summer months determine community dynamics and mediate changes in microbial species composition.