Task Based Feature Detection


Segmentations of the domain derived from merge trees have been shown to efficiently encode threshold-based features. For example, segmented merge trees can be used to extract extinction regions defined as areas of high scalar dissipation in turbulent combustion simulations or also burning cells in turbulent combustion, eddies in the oceans, and bubbles in Raleigh-Taylor instabilities. Segmented merge-trees provide two key advantages over traditional threshold-based segmentation techniques: 1) they efficiently encode a wide range of possible segmentations, and 2) they allow for the selection of localized thresholds.

We implemented our feature extraction algorithm using a task based approach where we define the algorithm using an abstract task graphs that can be execute on multiple runtimes (using the BabelFlow library). The computation is composed of four types of tasks: local computation, join, correction and segmentation. The local computation at the leaf nodes (of the task graph) receive the input data and produces two outputs: a local tree and a boundary tree. These are sent to the correction and join tasks, respectively. All but the leaf tasks of the reduction perform the join of two (or more) boundary trees and send the other boundary tree to the next join and an augmented boundary tree to as many correction stages as there are leaves in the subtree of the join. The correction uses the augmented boundary tree and the local tree to update the local tree and sends it to the next correction stage. Once all joins have been passed to a correction, each local tree is passed to a final segmentation.

Getting Started

The task based feature segmentation is usable through Ascent when built via Spack/uberenv enabling the variant “+babelflow”.

The filter accepts the following set of parameters:

  • task: the name of the algorithm to execute, now only “pmt” is currently supported (default = “pmt”)
  • field: name of the input field (scalar and float64)
  • fanin: defines the reduce/broadcast factor to use (e.g., fanin=2 will merge two merge trees at a time), it is preferrable to use 2 for 2D datasets and 8 for 3D datasets
  • threshold: the threshold for the merge tree construction, all value below this thershold will be discarded
  • gen_segment: generate (1) or not (0) a new field containing the segmentation named “segment”
Some optional parameters are:
  • in_ghosts: number of ghost cells used by the input domain decomposition (default = [1,1,1,1,1,1])
  • ugrid_select: if dataset contains multiple uniform grids, select the index of the grid to use for the analysis (default = 0)

Use Case Examples

Input and output

Limitations: This filter currently supports only uniform grids and scalar fields (with datatype float64). The filter can generate a new field named “segment” containing a new uniform grid (equivalent to the input field’s one) containing the segmentation values.


Here is an actions file which takes as input a scalar field “mag” and perform a topological segmentation using a threshold (e.g., 0.0025). The segmentation is stored by the filter in a new variable named “segment”, in the following example pipeline this variable saved by relay extract to a blueprint file.

  action: "add_pipelines"
        type: "babelflow"
          task: "pmt"
          field: "mag"
          fanin: 2
          threshold: 0.0025
          gen_segment: 1
  action: "add_extracts"
      type: "relay"
      pipeline: "pl2"
        path: "seg0"
        protocol: "blueprint/mesh/hdf5"
          - "segment"

The equivaled pipeline in C++:

Ascent a;
conduit::Node ascent_opt;
ascent_opt["mpi_comm"] = MPI_Comm_c2f(MPI_COMM_WORLD);
ascent_opt["runtime/type"] = "ascent";

Node pipelines;
pipelines["pl1/f1/type"] = "babelflow";
pipelines["pl1/f1/params/task"] = "pmt";
pipelines["pl1/f1/params/field"] = "mag";
pipelines["pl1/f1/params/fanin"] = 2;
pipelines["pl1/f1/params/threshold"] = 0.0025;
pipelines["pl1/f1/params/gen_segment"] = 1;

Node extract;
extract["e1/type"] = "relay";
extract["e1/pipeline"] = "pl1";
extract["e1/params/path"] = "seg";
extract["e1/params/protocol"] = "blueprint/mesh/hdf5";
extract["e1/params/fields"].append() = "segment";

Node actions;
Node &add_extract = actions.append();
add_extract["action"] = "add_extracts";
add_extract["extracts"] = extract;

actions.append()["action"] = "execute";

Node &add_pipelines = actions.append();
add_pipelines["action"] = "add_pipelines";
add_pipelines["pipelines"] = pipelines;



Our implementation using a task based abstraction layer (BabelFlow) allows for easy portability of analytics over multiple runtimes (i.e., the current implementation uses MPI). To avoid large global communications and improve overall performance reduction and broadcast communications are defined in the task graph as k-way reduction/broadcast trees (where k in the number of input/output nodes at each level of the tree).


  • Peer-Timo Bremer (LLNL)
  • Xuan Huang (University of Utah)
  • Steve Petruzza (University of Utah)
  • Sergei Shudler (LLNL)