Aeolian dust is the main research topic I have been working on since my PhD;
I get the chance to travel a lot for that: sample large deserts and ocean sediments offshore these large sand boxes.
My approach to desert dust is a sedimentological one: the wind is a very selective transport mechanism that has a strong impact on the material it carries from source to sink, and on its particle-size distributions:
* coarse particles won't be picked up
* fine particles will be kept in suspension
Therefore, wind-blown deposits have a very-well sorted size distribution that decreases from proximal (close to the source) to distal (far away from the source).
If we can recognise and quantify wind-blown particles in deep-sea sediments (and obviously we claim that we can) they can tell us something about the environmental conditions in the source area at the time of deposition.
In addition I try to find support for the inferences made on the physical properties using (bio)geochemical and mineralogical proxies.