- Sterile sampling,
- Dry deposition,
Atmospheric dust can influence biogeochemical cycles, accelerate snowmelt, and affect air, water quality, and human health. Yet, the bulk of atmospherically transported material remains poorly quantified in terms of total mass fluxes and composition. This lack of information stems in part from the challenges associated with measuring dust deposition. Here we report on the design and efficacy of a new dry deposition sampler (Dry Deposition Sampling Unit (DSU)) and method that quantifies the gravitational flux of dust particles. The sampler can be used alone or within existing networks such as those employed by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP). Because the samplers are deployed sterile and the use of water to remove trapped dust is not required, this method allows for the recovery of unaltered dry material suitable for subsequent chemical and microbiological analyses. The samplers were tested in the laboratory and at 15 field sites in the western United States. With respect to material retention, sampler performance far exceeded commonly used methods. Retrieval efficiency was >97% in all trials and the sampler effectively preserved grain size distributions during wind exposure experiments. Field tests indicated favorable comparisons to dust-on-snow measurement across sites (r2 0.70, p < 0.05) and within sites to co-located aerosol data (r2 0.57–0.99, p < 0.05). The inclusion of dust deposition and composition monitoring into existing networks increases spatial and temporal understanding of the atmospheric transport on materials and substantively furthers knowledge of the effects of dust on terrestrial ecosystems and human exposure to dust and associated deleterious compounds.